Break a sweat. “Some health issues that become more prominent with age can contribute to sleep troubles,” Ailshire says. Exercise helps improve all of your body’s systems, and the healthier you are, the less likely you are to experience health conditions that interfere with sleep, such as sleep apnea (short pauses in breathing during sleep) and depression.
In a study published in Sleep Medicine, formerly sedentary adults 55 years and older followed better sleep advice (such as using their bed only for sleep and sex) and did aerobic exercise three days a week for 16 weeks or just followed the sleep tips. The exercise group reported sleeping 45 minutes longer on average, had more energy, and were more likely to exercise following a good night’s sleep.
A 2017 review of three meta-analyses published in the Journal of Evidence Based Medicine found that exercise helped reduce the number of sleep apnea episodes and increase the ability to fall asleep. “There was a 19 percent improvement in overall sleep quality—getting consistent sleep on a daily basis—in those who exercised,” says George Kelley, a co-author of the study and director of the Meta-Analytic Research Group in the School of Public Health at West Virginia University.
Nix the caffeine. Stop drinking coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages at least 6 hours before bedtime to avoid any residual energizing side effects, Chervin says.
Get outside if you tire early. Many older adults find themselves waking up earlier than they used to, which isn’t necessarily a problem unless it starts to disrupt your life. When you’re going to bed at 6 or 7 p.m. because you’re waking at 2 or 3 a.m., that can make it more difficult to interact with family and friends, which can increase isolation. Getting light exposure in the later afternoon “can help push that sleepiness back so you can go to bed later and get up a little later,” Chervin says.
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