How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep

How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep

You may have been up with the lark a few years ago but have now turned into a grumpy insomniac. You’re not imagining it – it’s a fact: sleep is harder to come by as you get older and, according to a recent study, up to 50% of adults over the age of 60 report difficulty sleeping. Whether you struggle to drop off, toss and turn throughout the night, feel wide awake at the crack of dawn or can’t resist a daytime nap, our experts can help. Here’s what they have to say…
Photography: ISTOCK/FIZKES

It’s A Myth That Older Adults Need Less Sleep
“Women aged between 55-64 need on average seven to nine hours of sleep, which declines to seven to eight hours from the age of 65 onwards. Other than this one hour less of sleep, your sleep need doesn’t actually decline significantly as you age. Sleep cycles do, however, change with age. Elderly adults typically have relatively short periods of slow-wave sleep, and fewer of them. In other words, sleep is lighter and more fragmented with brief arousals or longer awakenings throughout the night.” – Sanjay Verma, chief sleep officer at Hilding Anders

Think About Sleep Hygiene
“The need to follow stricter sleep hygiene is higher for a woman aged over 55 than for a woman in her thirties. This is because levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone, decline as you age, making sleep trickier. Try to sleep in a dark, quiet and cold room (ideally 17-19 degrees); abstain from stimulants, including caffeine and nicotine, for at least a couple of hours before bedtime; get some morning sunlight within an hour of waking up (sipping your tea by the kitchen window or on your terrace is a good idea); and consider taking a hot bath or shower around 45 minutes before going to bed. When you have a bath, blood rushes from the core of the body towards the skin, which helps to bring down your body’s core temperature, which sends signals to the brain that it’s time to sleep.” – Sanjay 

Don’t Go To Bed Too Early
“While it might seem like going to bed early is the perfect solution to get more sleep, this is far from the case. Illogical as it may seem, spending less time in bed is vital for improving your sleep, especially as you age. You simply shouldn’t be going to bed until you feel properly tired, as the longer you spend in bed the more likely you are to create the wrong associations. If you spend hours in bed awake, you’re more likely to relate your bed to being awake, which can lead to sleeplessness. If you’re trying to improve your sleep, stop lounging in bed – and keep your bedroom for when you’re ready to sleep only.” – Kathryn Pinkham, founder of The Insomnia Clinic

Cut Out Afternoon Naps
“If napping has snuck its way into your routine, cut it out. Taking a long afternoon nap after a poor night’s sleep may seem like a good idea, but it will impact your ability to sleep well the following night. If you are really desperate for some sleep, then keep your nap short, limiting it to 25 minutes or less. Research suggests that naps as brief as ten minutes can enhance mood and alertness, so keep it short to reap the benefits.” – Kathryn 

Read A Proper Book – Not A Tablet
“Using a tablet for an hour before going to bed will suppress melatonin (the sleep hormone) for the following three hours, and this effect will remain for the following two nights. Almost all modern technology – think TVs, mobile phones, laptops and tablets – emit blue light, which adversely affects your sleep. If you have to use these devices in the evening, consider using blue light-blocker glasses and put your gadget on night mode if possible.” – Sanjay 

Exercise In The Fresh Air
“Many of us reduce the amount we move as we get older. Even if the weather isn’t great, try to get outside and exercise as much as you can, as long as you’re following government guidelines. It doesn’t have to be a marathon; a nice walk is good enough. This is not just good for your physical health, but also your mental health, and anything you can do to reduce anxiety is great for your sleep.” – Kathryn 

Skip The Nightcap
“Alcohol is a sedative, which is why those who have issues with sleep often find it a ‘useful’ way to nod off. However, while a drink may help you fall asleep more easily, it negatively affects the quality of your sleep so it becomes non-restorative. This means that even if you do get to sleep faster, you won’t feel much better, as you’ll struggle to get deep and refreshing sleep under the effects. Alcohol also disrupts your circadian rhythm. You may fall asleep quicker, but you will also wake earlier or in the middle of the night. As your hangover starts to kick in, dehydration or needing to use the loo will wake you and it can be hard to get back to sleep. You may then feel more tired during the day, making it more tempting to go to bed early, which can lead to further sleep issues as your body clock gets further out of sync. Try to stop drinking an hour or so – more if you can – before bedtime.” – Kathryn 

If you can easily fall asleep on the sofa earlier in the evening and then struggle to fall asleep when you get into bed, you need to think about your sleep drive.

…Especially If You Have Sleep Apnoea 
“Sleep apnoea is more common in women post-menopause as your muscles change and become looser, and alcohol has been known to exacerbate the condition. Most of us are likely to snore if we have drunk too much alcohol, but for those with sleep apnoea, it can make the snoring and difficulty to breathe even worse.” – Kathryn 

Think About Your Sleep Drive
“If you can easily fall asleep on the sofa earlier in the evening and then struggle to fall asleep when you get into bed, you need to think about your sleep drive. By falling asleep in this way, you teach your body to relate the sofa to feeling relaxed, encouraging you to fall asleep. Then, by the time you get to bed, you don’t have enough sleep drive left to get through the night, meaning you’re more likely to wake up in the early hours. This is then followed by time spent tossing and turning in bed, feeling wound up and stressed, which leads to more tiredness the following day, meaning you’re more likely to fall asleep on the sofa again in the evening. Your body clock takes on this new pattern and will repeat it until you take the correct measures to re-set it. In short, it’s a vicious cycle.” – Kathryn

Invest In A Mattress Topper
“Physical discomfort and pain due to arthritis is one of the most common sources of sleep disturbance in older age. Worse still, it’s a vicious cycle whereby poor sleep leads to greater levels of inflammation and pain. Make sure your bed is as comfortable as possible – if you can’t afford a new mattress, investing in a good topper can be an affordable and hugely effective way to add extra cushioning. Having a regular daytime exercise and stretching programme can also help alleviate discomfort, as will having a warm bath or using heat pads before bed. Heat pads, or a hot water bottle, is also a good solution if you suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS).” – Guy Meadows, co-founder of Sleep School 

Spend Less Time In Bed
“Falling asleep easily but then waking and struggling to drift off again is one of the most common sleep issues in older women. The reason being, once you get into a pattern of waking in the night, this can begin to repeat itself. Even if you have a bad night’s sleep, try to get up at the same time regardless and stick to a routine as much as you can. Spending all day in your pyjamas and having a lie-in can be tempting but keep your bedroom for sleeping. This is important, as if you get up late and spend too much time in bed, your appetite for sleep will weaken, which can be a recipe for disaster for that night’s sleep.” – Kathryn 

If You Can’t Sleep, Leave The Room
“If you wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. It may sound counterintuitive, but the longer you spend in bed awake, the more you will start to associate your bed to feeling stressed. If you have tried for 20 minutes to fall back to sleep and cannot, get up and go to another room or read a book. When you’re feeling sleepy again, head back to bed.” – Kathryn 

Ditch Sleeping Pills
“As a short-term solution, sleeping pills can be very effective. However, over time they tend to stop working as well, so you have to take a higher dose in order to get the same results. This can lead to something called rebound insomnia, meaning that on nights when you take a pill you end up sleeping even worse than before, leading to increased anxiety and further reliance on the medication. In the long term, they can become addictive both physically and psychologically. The best way to manage this is to use CBT techniques alongside medication, so over time you can safely wean yourself off. At the same time, don’t be lured by things like sleep sprays and special supplements – these can get in the way and take the focus off something that is actually a very natural process.” – Kathryn 

Don’t Bother With A Sunrise Alarm Clock
“Products like Lumie clocks, which wake you up gently with light in the morning to mimic sunrise, aren’t particularly bad, and won’t necessarily cause a sleep problem, but if you’re already suffering with insomnia, investing in gadgets could make things worse. The more you buy, Google and ask for advice, the more you’re thinking about sleep and going to bed with sleep on the mind. In turn, this can affect your adrenaline response and will ultimately make you fearful of going to bed.” – Kathryn 

CBT Could Be A Practical Solution
“One of the biggest problems with sleep is that the internet is swamped with information, but the majority of it isn’t based on evidence and can even make your sleep worse. Quick fixes and gimmicks are tempting, but they end up costing you more money and time. Instead, look for the evidence – CBT-I [cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia] is the only evidence-based treatment for insomnia.” – Kathryn 

For more information visit and The Insomnia Clinic’s Sleep Well, Live Better online course is now available. Designed by Kathryn and her team of CBT therapists, the course will guide you through tried and tested steps to improve your sleep. The Sleep School App is now available, and your first seven days are free. Visit for more information.

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at

The GOLD Edition from SheerLuxe
Delivered to your inbox, weekly.