Fit Over 50: The Importance of Sleep

Denise Austin
by Denise Austin | 
No doubt about it - sleep is essential to our overall wellbeing. Quality sleep provides your body and mind with the time to recharge, helps to ward off disease and illness, and helps your brain function properly. The trouble is that not everyone gets enough quality rest and sleep, especially once we turn 50. Hormonal changes and age-related health concerns can effect women's and men's sleeping patterns. The good news is that a few tweaks can help improve your chances of a getting a good night's rest! Try these out and keep track of how you sleep in a journal, so you can see what works or what doesn't (you can also use a sleep app or sleep tracking device, too!).

Pay attention to what you do before bedtime. A variety of factors can effect your sleep, and what you do in the hours leading up to bedtime matters. Avoid alcohol, which is a stimulant, along with caffeinated drinks - they can keep you up, tossing and turning. Also avoid heavy meals at night (this is part of the reason I "close down" my kitchen by 8 pm - to help promote better rest!), which can lead to stomach upset and keep you up. If you are truly hungry, have a light snack like a banana. Keep exercise to a minimum and make it gentle, such as a nighttime stretching routine, that can actually help you ease into sleep. A warm (not hot) bath or shower can also help you calm your brain, and keep in mind that studies show sticking to the same get in bed schedule, whether you are tired or not, promotes better rest!

Check your sleep hygiene. A calming, cool bedroom is ideal, so leave the electronics elsewhere, turn the thermostat down, add an extra blanket if you need it, and turn down the lights. Keep a glass of water by the bed to sip on in the night if you wake, and think about when you feel uncomfortable at night - a body pillow or mattress topper may make a difference in how you sleep. I know many women who use a cooling mattress topper to help with menopausal symptoms!

Take a nap! If you simply can't stay asleep for a good six to eight hours a day, that's OK - stressing out about it won't help! Instead, if you wake, read a book or do a crossword puzzle - something that occupies your mind until you can fall back asleep. And during the day, take a nap if you can - sleep adds up, just like exercise, so get what you can, when you can!

Talk with your doctor. If you still seem to toss and turn most nights, talk with your doctor. There could be an underlying cause, and she can help you find a solution whether it be medicine or therapy. 

I hope these tips help you get all the rest you need to live a happy, healthy, fulfilling life after 50!

Let's live FIT, HAPPY and HEALTHY - together!