Ask Joan: Getting a good night’s sleep
March 18, 2024

Q. My wife and I have many things in common, but getting a good night’s sleep is not one of them. She never seems to have any issues falling asleep and then staying asleep. However, I find it harder and harder to go to sleep or stay asleep all night. I have heard that this is just what happens when you get older. Is this true? I don’t want to spend my “golden years” losing sleep.

Joan Hatem-Roy
CEO of AgeSpan

A. I can relate! Some nights are definitely better than others, and it’s hard to get through the next day when it feels like you have been up half the night. We all feel better when we get a great night’s sleep, which is so important for our physical and mental health, immune system, and mood – regardless of age.

Like you, many older adults have trouble sleeping, however, it isn’t just a normal part of aging. It may surprise you to know that all adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. What usually affects our sleep when we’re older are changes to our schedules and lifestyles. Older adults are often getting up and going to sleep earlier than when they were young.

Also, medications, illness, and injury can disrupt our sleep, and we all have nights when stress or worry may keep us awake. There are things that we can all do to sleep better. The National Institute of Health offers these suggestions:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends.
  • Avoid napping in the late afternoons or evening if you can.
  • Develop a bedtime routine. Take time to relax before going to bed, such as reading or taking a bath.
  • Try not to watch television or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom. The light from these devices may make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
  • Keep your bedroom at a cool, comfortable temperature.
  • Use low lighting in the evenings and as you prepare for bed.
  • Exercise at regular times each day but not within three hours of going to bed.
  • Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime.
  • Stay away from caffeine late in the day. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) can keep you awake.

It may seem counterintuitive, but alcohol won’t help you sleep, and even small amounts may make it harder to stay asleep.

Health experts say it may take a couple of weeks of trying some of these tips to see a difference. However, if you find you are always feeling sleepy or continue to struggle with insomnia, you may want to talk to your health-care provider. In the meantime, turn your pillow to the cool side and create a new routine for a good night.

Are you caring for an older adult or need help locating healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at . You can also call 800-892-0890 or email

Joan Hatem-Roy is the chief executive officer of AgeSpan.

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