Sleep Health A Guide to Better Sleep

Test your learning

A pre-test is listed below. Take this to see what knowledge you already have. A post-test is listed at the end of this page to see what you have learned.

  1. True or false: bad sleep habits can cause disease.
  2. True or false: only a doctor can tell me if my sleep habits are bad.
  3. True or false: sleep correlates to light exposure.
  4. True or false: scents are too stimulating for use before bed.
  5. True or false: older adults can't get good sleep.
How can sleep affect my health?

We have all experienced a night without good sleep. If this is normal for your sleeping habits, you may not realize just how many effects it can have on your day to day activities and even your safety. Here is a list of common side effects related to lack of sleep:

  1. Greater risk for disease
  2. Reduced efficiency
  3. Increased errors
  4. Impaired memory
  5. Increased irritability
  6. Mood swings
  7. Weight gain
  8. Reduced immune system function
  9. Less productivity
  10. Slower reaction time
  11. Reduced alertness
  12. Reduced sex drive
How do I know if my sleep habits are abnormal?

An excellent guide for assessing your sleep habits is a tool called the Pittsburgh Sleep Quaility Index. The tool gives you a rating based on your answers. A score of 5 or more indicates poor sleep quaility. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you score a 5 or more. A link for this tool is attached below.

Why are my sleep habits changing?

Sleep habits change with aging. This is a normal change in all older adults. Older adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. It is normal to wake up throughout the night as an older adult. In addition to this, older adults spend less time in deep sleep. Older adults also tend to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.

The direct cause for changing sleep habits is not quite fully understood. However, the changes may be secondary to illness and medications. It may also have to do with normal deterioration of the nervous system that occurs with age. This is because the nervous system controls sleep and wake cycles.

What can I do to better my sleep health?

Getting good sleep is achievable. There are many techniques that can be used to do so. Different methods should be utilized consistently if they help with sleep. Here a few techniques that can help you:

  • Develop a bedtime routine: develop a routine that works for you. It can consist of the techniques listed on this page. It is especially important to go to bed at the same time every night. Doing so tells your body it's time for bed and establishes regularity in the body.
  • Practice daily physical activity: using up energy during the day will help you go to sleep and stay asleep. The body will use the opportunity of sleep to replace those energy stores.
  • Practice bedtime yoga: this helps your body relax and your mind calm down. A relaxed body and calm mind help the body have sound sleep.
  • Practice night time stretching: stretching helps the body to release stress that can interfere with adequate sleep.
  • Practice daily or nighttime meditation: meditation can help your mind tune in to the importance of adequate sleep, and can help release focus on daily worries that can interfere with good rest.
  • Abandon electronic devices at least an hour before bed: studies have shown that the light permitted from electronic devices interferes with falling and staying asleep.
  • Read before bed: reading before bed helps distract the mind from daily worries and stressors that can interfere with sleep. Books and magazines are also good replacements for electronic devices.
  • Use calming scents before bed: calming scents help put the mind at ease, contributing to a good night's rest.
  • Avoid caffeine 3 hours before bed: caffeine has the ability to keep your mind alert and awake.
  • Avoid eating large meals before bed: try to eat meals 2-3 hours before bed to avoid feeling uncomfortable while laying down. Small snacks before bed are okay.
  • Limit daytime naps: taking naps can alter your sleep schedule at night. Try to establish a regular sleep routine.
  • Dim your lights: lowering your lights 2-3 hours before bedtime signals the brain to release melatonin in the brain, a chemical that causes you to sleep.
  • Quit smoking: nicotine is similar to caffeine because it is a stimulant, which can signal your body to stay awake longer.
  • Practice deep breathing: deep breathing just before you close your eyes helps your body fall directly asleep. Focusing on your breathing is a good way to distract your mind and calm your body.
  • Talk to your doctor: be sure to tell your doctor about persistent bad sleep. Your doctor may help you find underlying health problems that may be causing your sleep problems. Your doctor can also prescribe medications that may be necessary to achieve good sleep health.
"Sleep is the best meditation" - Dalai Lama

Sleep is directly related to your health. It's natural for you to require less sleep with age, though their are many ways to help re-establish good sleep habits. Don't be afraid to spoil yourself with nice scents and comfortable pajamas. Using the methods described on this page can help you to establish a routine that works for you. Good sleep is achievable.

Test your knowledge
  1. True or false: bad sleep habits can cause disease.
  2. True or false: only a doctor can tell me if my sleep habits are bad.
  3. True or false: sleep correlates to light exposure.
  4. True or false: scents are too stimulating for use before bed.
  5. True or false: older adults can't get good sleep.

Answers with rationales

  1. True: studies have shown that lack of sleep is a cause of disease as well as illness.
  2. False: you can use the tool provided by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quailty Index listed earlier on the page to find out if your sleep habits are abnormal. If they are abnormal, you should talk to your doctor.
  3. True: studies have shown that light exposure does have an impact on the sleep cycle. Low light and darkness stimulate the brain to release chemicals that cause sleep, while bright light signals the brain to stay active.
  4. False: soothing scents are an excellent way to calm the mind before bed.
  5. False: although older adults may go to bed and wake up earlier and may awaken more often during the night, they are still able to achieve good sleep.

Community resources picked for you

  • Most hospitals in the community have sleep centers. One close to your community and with your physician is the TriHealth Good Samaritan Glenway Sleep Center located on 6350 Glenway Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45211.
  • Visit the Green Township Senior Citizens Center at 3620 Epley Lane, Cincinnati OH 45247. This center provides numerous daily activities that can contribute to sleep health such as daily physical activity and yoga.
  • Try out your local neighborhood shopping center for comfortable pajamas, calm scented candles, and low light night lights.


Black, D. S., O'Reilly, G. A., Olmstead, R., Breen, E. C., & Irwin, M. R. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(4), 494-501. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081

Lo, J. C., Groeger, J. A., Cheng, G. H., Dijk, D., & Chee, M. W. (2016). Self-reported sleep duration and cognitive performance in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine, 1787-98. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2015.08.021

Sigurdson K, Ayas N. (2007). The public health and safety consequences of sleep disorders. Canadian J Physiol Pharmacol. 85:179-183.

Smagula, S. F., Stone, K. L., Fabio, A., & Cauley, J. A. (2016). Risk factors for sleep disturbances in older adults: Evidence from prospective studies. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 2521-30. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2015.01.003


Created with images by Unsplash - "ocean sky blue" • hsingy - "morning stretch" • DariuszSankowski - "phone screen technology" • byJoeLodge - "82/365 Just Before Bedtime"

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