Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults age 60 and older. People with this condition have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Insomnia can last for days, months, and even years. Often, being unable to sleep becomes a habit. Some people worry about not sleeping even before they get into bed. This may make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Some older adults who have trouble sleeping may use over-the-counter sleep aids. Others may use prescription medicines to help them sleep. These medicines may help when used for a short time. But remember, medicines aren’t a cure for insomnia. Developing healthy habits at bedtime may help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips:
- Start with a comfortable room temperature, around 70˚F, and eliminate additional noises, like a loud TV, to signal to my body it’s time to wind down.
- A cup of Chamomile tea about 45 minutes before bed will allow the anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety benefits to start taking effect and induce sleepiness. We don’t want to drink alcohol, which can cause disruptions as we sleep as our body tries to metabolize it, or overload our bladders with lots of water, which will add unwanted trips to the bathroom during the night. If tea isn’t your fancy, a melatonin capsule or powder will help to stimulate sleep as well.
- Try using an evaporative humidifier that has an aroma diffuser. Humidifiers support healthy, moist mucus membranes and helps to prevent transdermal water loss, which is at its height when we sleep. The soft sound of the fan can drown out city noise and lull you to sleep as well as remind you of all the health benefits you are receiving.
- Adding aromatherapy is another tool to aid in relaxation. A few drops of essential oil to the top of humidifier helps you wind down and get rest for another full day ahead.
- If time permits, a magnesium bath is the ultimate way to prep yourself mentally and physically for quality sleep. Magnesium is an incredible anti-inflammatory that helps to stabilize hormonal imbalances and improve cellular processes in the endothelial layer of the skin. Bath salts help remove the toxins out of the body and allow the magnesium to enter. In a warm bath, our vessels in our skin dilate and allow for enhanced absorption of magnesium salts throughout the skin.
- The few minutes after a bath are important for our skin health. While the skin is still moist, we can trap water against the skin, improving skin moisture, by immediately applying lotion or oil. Try it! You’ll notice a difference in your skin immediately.
- When sleep feels faint, a meditation practice or listening to a story helps to relieve your mind of worries that may keep you up and help reflect on all the blessings you have to be grateful for!
While you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night — but if you often have trouble sleeping, contact your doctor. Identifying and treating any underlying causes can help you get the better sleep you deserve.
Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified and nationally acclaimed dermatologic surgeon.