For the past several months I have been writing about the concept of “Successful Aging”, beginning with a brief overview of 9 “Habits of Successful Aging”. My subsequent posts have described and explained these habits in greater detail, offering some avenues and options for more successfully including them in your lifestyle. This post's topic for discussion is “Get Sleep”.

Catching some Zzzzz's

We all know that feeling of not being able to sleep. You toss and turn, mind racing, just lying there going over and over the day - and what about tomorrow?? Will you ever get to sleep? It seems like something you can’t avoid after a busy, stressful day. However, for those of us that experience these kind of nights, there is good news! You  really CAN do something to catch more zzzzz’s! These are easy to learn habits that research has shown will improve sleep and sleep quality, a condition known as ‘sleep hygiene’. Good habits for good sleep

  • Be active: This is the primary foundation of good sleep, as long as your physical activity and/or exercise is appropriate for you and for your lifestyle. Exercising at too high an intensity, or too late in the day can disrupt sleep and leave you feeling fatigued and listless in the days following. For a basic guide to increasing the activity in your life, see my ‘Stay Active!” post @ For optimum ‘sleep impact’ finish your activity at least 3 hours before bedtime since exercising any later is likely to have a wakening effect!

Other sleep inducing habits include...

  • Develop sleep rituals: Give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep. Listen to relaxing music, read something soothing for 15 minutes, have a cup of caffeine-free tea, try relaxation exercises.
  • Put your brain in neutral: Performing brain-stimulating activities shortly before bedtime can keep you awake, so save things like working, paying bills, engaging in competitive games or family problem-solving for earlier in the day.
  • Keep the lights low: Exposure to bright lights before bedtime send ‘wake up’ signals to the body at exactly the wrong time!
  • Create a ‘sleep-friendly’ atmosphere: Make it cool, quiet, dark, comfortable and free of interruptions.
  • Seek whole body comfort: Buy a quality mattress and pillows. This one purchase will contribute to your sleep hygiene for up to a decade!
  • Eat late, early: Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime. This allows your body and digestive system to settle down by the time you are trying to do the same. Vocal gymnastics by your stomach does nothing for sleep quality!
  • Establish regular bed and wake up times: The more of a routine you develop the better the sleep pattern. Don’t forget the weekends.
  • Keep it to “40 winks”: Although a ‘power nap” (that's ’40 winks’ for all you non-Brits – see can be very effective for energy replacement, longer daytime naps can disrupt your nightly sleep pattern.
  • Be stimulant free, nightly: Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol products all contain ingredients that, when ingested close to bedtime, can keep you awake

Finally, if after all this, you still have problems with sleeping - or with staying awake/alert during the day, you should also consult your physician. Be sure to tell him/her if you have already tried these tips and for how long.

Based on information from the National Sleep Foundation @

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