Improving Sleep After 50 Increases Happiness

This time of year everyone is busy trying to keep their New Year’s resolutions to lose those extra 10 pounds and go to the gym, thinking that the perfect body will make them happy.

Guess what? Even if you succeed, it probably won’t make you happy. Previously, I wrote a blog on this subject. As I pointed out in the article, one study found that those who slimmed down were actually 80 percent more likely to be depressed.

Woman SleepingOf course, weight isn’t, nor should be, the source of happiness. Your spirituality, finding purpose in life, your relationships, and your health are much more important than achieving the perfect body. And guess what else can make you happy?

More sleep.

Confession time. Those close to me know that I have some issues with insomnia. But although I’m still not immune to 3:00 a.m. Facebook or Candy Crush sessions, I’m doing better.

Following all the experts’ advice, I’m exercising more, avoiding large meals and alcohol before bedtime, turning off electronic devises at least 30 minutes before going to sleep, avoiding long naps, and sticking to a regular sleep schedule.

Whatever it takes, I’m trying it, because I know the importance of a good night’s sleep.

Psychologists and psychiatrists have been telling us for years that one of the significant and overlooked health problems in the U.S. is that so many Americans are chronically sleep deprived. Very few of us get the recommended eight hours a night that we so desperately need.

A lack of sleep has a profound effect on our health. Sleep deprivation raises the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, increases stress hormones, impairs memory and concentration, and is a large contributor to car accidents. Plus, according to recent studies, a lack of sleep can make you fat.

On top of all that, sleep affects our happiness.

Most of us are aware of these facts and crave a good night’s sleep. So why aren’t we getting enough shut eye?

As Help Guide points out in their article, Sleep Tips for Older Adults: As you age your body produces lower levels of growth hormone, so you’ll likely experience a decrease in slow wave or deep sleep (an especially refreshing part of the sleep cycle). When this happens you produce less melatonin, meaning you’ll often experience more fragmented sleep and wake up more often during the night. That’s why many of us consider ourselves ‘light sleepers’ as we age.”

Menopause, medications, and old age can also contribute to insomnia. Stress and worry can keep us tossing and turning.

Maybe we’re that workaholic who can’t resist getting off just one more email. Or our favorite TV program is on or we want to read just one more chapter of that book we can’t put down. Electronic devices in the bedroom late at night disrupt our sleep. Or perhaps we drink too much caffeine or alcohol before going to bed.

Time to make some changes, people. Identify any underlying problems and adjust if possible. For example, see if medications can be changed to improve sleep, reduce stress, avoid caffeine and alcohol before retiring, and put away your phone or iPad on hour before bedtime. During the day, make sure you get some exercise which can promote sleep and limit daytime napping to no more than 20 minutes a day.

Here are a few other tips to try:

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, cool, quiet, and dark.
  • Utilize bedtime rituals like taking a warm bath, reading, listening to relaxing music, or deep breathing.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime and avoid drinking anything two hours before going to sleep.

So let’s try and do better.  One study from the University of Michigan showed that getting one extra hour of sleep each night would do more for our daily happiness than getting a $60,000 raise annually. Getting an extra 60-90 minutes of sleep each night can not only make us happier but will also strengthen our immune system and improve our memory.

This works the other way around too, by the way. According to a study from Cornell University, having a positive outlook on life is associated with improved sleep quality. In other words, if we get happy, it will help us achieve that quality good night’s sleep we need.

So, you get the gist. Sleep more and be happy. Be happy and sleep more.

Sounds good to me.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at



Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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3 Responses

  1. rod says:

    I agree with all this, though I have the same problem you do. It began about the time I started taking medication for high blood pressure so I have wondered if there’s a connection. If there is, I now have a choice of two ways to shorten my life.

    • juliegorges says:

      Indeed, medication for high blood pressure can interfere with sleep. For me, I slept like a baby until menopause hit and I’ve been struggling to get a good night’s sleep ever since. I too have read that people with chronic insomnia have an elevated risk of death. I’m visualizing death by menopause on my tombstone. Could life be any crueler? It’s either laugh or cry – whenever possible you have to laugh!

  2. sherill says:

    Hi Julie, sounds good to me too. Sometimes it is really hard for me to go sleep specially if there are some projects that needs to be done. i’ll follow your tips . Thanks for sharing. Great Read.

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