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Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

Sleeping Troubles?

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  • We all need sleep, and it seems to come naturally for most of us. But, sometimes sleep is evasive. We toss and turn and can’t seem to sleep.
  • When you are well rested, you have better attention and memory, and feel better overall. You are also less likely to fall.
  • How much sleep we need changes from the time we are newborns, throughout childhood, and into adulthood. Adults usually need 7 to 9 hours of sleep, and older adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep. It can also get harder to sleep well as we get older.

What happens as we get older?

  • It can be harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • We may nap more during the day.
  • We get less deep sleep at night.
  • Our sleep is lighter—we wake up more often during the night.

What affects the sleep/wake cycle?

Two of the hormones that affect our patterns of waking up and sleeping are adenosine and melatonin.

Adenosine builds up in our body throughout the day making us feel tired. While we’re sleeping, it breaks down, so in the morning we wake up refreshed.

Melatonin also helps our body to sleep. The amount of melatonin produced is affected by light. As natural light dims in the evening, our bodies make melatonin, which helps us fall asleep. The smallest amount of light can slow down how much melatonin the body makes. This light could be from artificial light, TVs, alarm clocks, computers and tablets, or street lights.

In the winter, it can be easier to fall asleep and stay asleep because of the shorter days and less exposure to natural light. In the summer, the opposite can occur. It can be harder to falls asleep and stay asleep with the longer days.

Other things that affect our sleep:

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Tips to get a good night’s sleep


During the day:

  • Get regular physical activity each day.
  • Spend time outside in natural light each day. Being in bright light can help your body get tired and sleep. If you can’t get outside, use a bright light (blue spectrum light) indoors instead.
  • Avoid napping more than 20 minutes.

In the evening:

  • Avoid exercise 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.
  • Find ways to lower your stress and relax.
  • Do something calming before bed like reading, listening to music, or having a warm bath.
  • Limit the amount of liquids you drink after supper to avoid having to get up at night to use the bathroom.
  • You could eat a small snack, but not a heavy meal, to get you through the night.
  • Limit your screen time from TVs, computers, phones, e-readers, and tablets, especially before bed.
  • Avoid alcohol. It can make you drowsy, but it affects the quality of your sleep so you feel less rested.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. Research shows that caffeine makes it harder to sleep. Caffeine is found in coffee, black tea, chocolate, cola drinks, and energy drinks.

At bedtime:

  • Use a comfortable mattress, and keep your bedroom cool and quiet.
  • Keep your room dark. Lights from alarm clock, streets lights, even the little red power light to tell you something is plugged in (like on a TV or computer), can bother some people’s sleep.
  • Pets in a bedroom can also interrupt sleep with their movements and snoring. If you have a pet in your room, consider moving them to a different room overnight.
  • Only use your bedroom for sleep and intimacy.

Things to remember:

  • Medications can affect sleep, especially those with caffeine. Over-the-counter medicines like decongestants and cough syrups can also disturb sleep. Talk to your healthcare provider if you use any medications, including over-the-counter medicines, and are having trouble sleeping.
  • Research shows that caffeine makes it harder to sleep. Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine is found in coffee, black tea, chocolate, cola drinks, and energy drinks.
  • Alcohol can make you drowsy, but it affects the quality of your sleep so you feel less rested. Try to avoid alcohol.
  • Health conditions like chronic pain, diabetes, menopause, and diseases of the lungs, heart, and nervous system can disrupt sleep. If you have one of these conditions, let your healthcare provider know if you are having trouble sleeping.
  • Stress, grief, and strong emotions can impact sleep. Learn ways to relax your body like breathing or muscle relaxation exercises, yoga, writing in a journal, or exercise to help get stress out of your system.

To learn more about your risk of falling complete the “Is there a chance you might fall?” checklist.​

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Current as of: June 30, 2019

Author: Fall Risk Management Program