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The secret to a good night’s sleep

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SleepWellbeing

The more candles you have on your birthday cake, the harder it seems to be to go out like a light. A good night’ sleep for the over-60s can prove elusive, so what’s the secret of a restful slumber?

One of the most basic questions, which even the experts can’t agree on, is how much sleep people. Generally seven to nine hours is recommended, but as you get older you may need less than you used to. It’s important to remember that as long as you wake up feeling refreshed and energetic, it doesn’t matter that you are only asleep for six and a half hours.

But if you do have problems dropping off, the experts recommend the following:

  1. Stick to a regular bedtime – even on weekends. Your body will get used to a routine.
  2. Take a warm bath – remember the basics of getting children to sleep. Baths relax the muscles and the drop in body temperature will induce drowsiness.
  3. Turn off the TV an hour before you go to bed – let those grey cells have a rest.
  4. Avoid afternoon naps – it’s tempting to have a short siesta but if this stops you sleeping at night, it’s not worth it.
  5. Drink less fluids, especially those containing alcohol and caffeine, before bedtime. Trips to the bathroom can break your sleep pattern and alcohol is a stimulant.

What if all of this fails? Are sleeping tablets the answer? Almost without exception the answer is no. Your GP may prescribe them for a short period – say three to four weeks, if your insomnia is severe, but tablets only mask the underlying problems. Over the counter sleeping tablets should be avoided as they can leave you drowsy the following morning.

Another major cause of sleepess nights is a partner who snores. Some 60% of men and 40% of women are habitual snorers, and the bad news is that this increases with age as tissues in the upper airway lose elasticity and vibrate.

There are all manner of over-the-counter remedies available for snoring – with mixed results. One quick win is to have higher pillows. This keeps the airways open by supporting the neck so that the throat is less constricted.

Again, alcohol is a factor here – just as it can prevent you from sleeping it can also make snoring worse. And losing weight can also reduce snoring dramatically.

Good night.