Sleep is a mysterious process for many older adults. When we are babies, we sleep… well, like babies.

As younger adults, we could doze peacefully with a rock concert going on outside our window. Then, in our 50s and 60s, strange things start to happen. Our internal clock “shifts” and we may find ourselves falling asleep after dinner and waking up at 4 in the morning.

When we do go to bed at a “normal time,” we may find ourselves tossing and turning. Many of us get up multiple times during the night to go to the bathroom. It’s enough to drive you crazy!

Since sleep is such an important part of life, many of us turn to medications to help us rest. Many older adults ask their doctors if they can use melatonin supplements. Others “self-medicate” by having a glass of wine or two before bed.

If you are having trouble sleeping at night, there may be a medical reason. Or, you may have developed bad lifestyle habits, such as drinking too much alcohol or taking your cell phone to bed. As a result, it is a good idea to have a holistic discussion with your doctor. Here are a few topics that you may want to consider raising at your next checkup.

Is Melatonin Really the Problem?

Since our production of melatonin decreases as we get older, it’s easy to blame this hormone for all of our problems. In reality, there is debate in the medical community about exactly how effective melatonin supplements are at treating insomnia. Your doctor will have an opinion on this, so, it’s definitely a good item to add to your list – especially if you have been buying over-the-counter melatonin supplements.

Are Your Medications Interfering with Your Sleep?

As we get a little older, medications become a part of life. Unfortunately, some of the drugs that we take have side-effects, which may include making it harder to sleep. One option is to ask your doctor if any of the medications that may have a stimulant effect can be taken earlier in the day. This means that you won’t be giving your brain a jolt of energy right before you go to bed.

Are Your Other Medical Conditions Keeping You Up at Night?

Some sleep researchers believe that it is actually our aging bodies that keep us awake at night, not our aging brains. If you are suffering from aches and pains or have a chronic illness, you may end up tossing and turning even if you are tired.

Your doctor may be able to give you recommendations on dietary changes, medications or lifestyle improvements that can help you to feel better. This, in turn, may help you to get the restful sleep that you deserve.

Would Lifestyle Changes Help You to Sleep Better?

Finally, there are many lifestyle changes that may help you to sleep better. One of the most simple, is exercise. Since the light from electronic devices also interferes with your sleep patterns, you can also choose to leave your cell phone in the living room.

Your doctor will be up to date on the latest sleep research and may be able to give you additional recommendations for simple things that you can do every day to improve your sleep.

I hope that you found these suggestions useful. Obviously, everyone’s body is different, so, please check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet, supplementation or exercise plans.

What additional questions do you think older adults should ask their doctors if they are having trouble sleeping? Have you found that your sleep patterns have shifted as you have gotten a little older? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article to keep the discussion going!

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