Sleep problems in later life

Advice to others about getting a good night's sleep

The people we talked to offered many different types of advice to help others with poor sleep, based on their own experiences, ranging from what they do themselves to what they have heard is the correct thing to do. Here are some of their suggestions:

General advice:

  • The amount of sleep you need is individual, so don’t compare your sleep with someone else’s.
  • Get enough physical exercise during the day to make you feel tired, but not too close to bedtime.
  • Try not to nap during the day, and avoid dozing in front of the television in the evening.
  • Have a regular routine.
  • Make sure you get enough light during the day.
  • Make sure your curtains are very dark and close properly.
Advice on what to do, or not to do, before bed:
  • Have a warm milky drink before bedtime.
  • Be calm and relaxed, don’t go to bed anxious about something.
  • Have a warm bath to help you feel relaxed.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything too close to bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol, or only drink a moderate amount.
  • Don’t drink too much tea or coffee during the day, and don’t drink too much before bedtime to avoid having to get up to go to the toilet in the night.
  • Make sure the windows are open, so there is enough fresh air circulating.
  • Have a comfortable bed and pillows.

Advice on what to do if you have difficulty getting to sleep:

  • Read a book or newspaper, until you fall asleep.
  • Read a boring book that won’t stimulate your mind.
  • Try to block out all worries and anxieties.
  • Count numbers, or objects or repeat words until you feel drowsy.
  • Use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, or tightening and loosening all the muscles in the body.
  • Have lavender oil or a lavender pillow nearby for relaxation.
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Advice on what to do if you wake up in the night:
  • Don’t toss and turn, get up and read, or have a warm milk and honey drink.
  • For those with diabetes, make sure you take your medication, and have something to eat nearby so that you can have it in the night if needed.
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Last reviewed September 2015.

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