A shift called a circadian phase advance naturally occurs with advancing years, causing you to feel sleepy and wake up earlier than you used to. You may be able to delay your bedtime by consuming caffeine or taking an afternoon nap, but don’t be surprised if you then have difficulty falling asleep at bedtime or staying asleep until it’s time to get up.

“A 20-minute nap helps a lot of people, but it may not be a good thing to do if you are having trouble sleeping at night,” Dr. Spira said.

Many of the factors that can cause poor sleep can be easily treated and often eliminated entirely by knowing how to adapt to age-related changes in sleep structure and by modifying sleep-disruptive behaviors.

Start by practicing good sleep hygiene. Avoid or minimize the use of caffeine, cigarettes, stimulants and especially alcohol. It’s true that a glass of wine may help you fall asleep more quickly, but it can — and often does — disrupt the quality and duration of sleep.

Exercise regularly, outdoors if possible, but not close to bedtime. Exposure to natural light during the day and early evening can help set your biological clock to foster sleepiness at bedtime. Avoid eating a heavy meal just before bed. If you’re hungry, have a light snack — a banana, a glass of warm milk or some whole-grain crackers can enhance the ability to fall asleep.

Reading before lights-out is fine, but the National Sleep Foundation cautions against exposure at bedtime to the blue light of e-readers (such as the Amazon Kindle), smartphones, tablets, computers and even televisions. Blue light can act as a stimulant, suppressing production of the natural sleep hormone melatonin and delaying sleep onset. Instead, read by lamplight or get a device like the Kindle Paperwhite that doesn’t use blue light.

If errant thoughts pop into your head when you’re trying to fall asleep, or you’re afraid you might forget something important, keep a pad and pen next to the bed and write yourself a note, then shut down your brain until morning.

This content was originally published here.

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