As we age, our sleep patterns change. Older adults tend to have more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep than their younger selves. Quality sleep, however, is essential to our physical health and mental well-being at any age.
Disrupted sleep can increase illness, depression and anxiety. The prevalence of insomnia increases as adults age, just as they need a good night’s sleep to support wellness. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 44% of older adults experience one or more symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says that for optimal daytime alertness, we all require about eight hours of sleep in every 24 hour period. Here are five things that can help your loved one get restorative sleep that will create a solid foundation for good health.
Daily Exercise and Exposure to Daylight
According to the AAFP reinforcing the body’s natural wake/sleep cycle has the “greatest potential for improving the quality of sleep” in seniors.
- For those who complain of waking too early, exposure to bright light for 30 to 60 minutes in the evening may help to change that schedule.
- For those who can’t get to sleep until late at night, regular exposure to bright light at an early-morning hour may shift their schedule to an earlier time.
Eliminate Daytime Napping
Naps will reduce sleepiness at the usual bedtime hour. It may also reduce the quality and duration of sleep.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Each person is different but if sleep is disrupted, it is a good idea to limit caffeine after noon time and stop drinking alcohol altogether. Alcohol prevents deeper sleep and also can cause the person to wake up during the night.
Address Medical Issues Medical Issues
Medications and cognitive issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, among other issues can cause sleep disruptions. Two of the most common physical ailments that impact sleep include:
- Restless Legs Syndrome- characterized by an intense discomfort, mostly in the legs during the evening when the person is at rest. It creates a strong urge to constantly move the legs or get up and walk around.
- Sleep Apnea- this causes the sufferer to wake up repeatedly during the night and may result in a noticeable decline in daytime alertness. A sleep lab study is necessary to diagnose sleep apnea.
Prepare the Bedroom for Sleep
The bedroom should be dark, quiet and cool. Open the window an hour before retiring or run a small fan if the room is overly warm. If the room receives early morning sunlight, be sure to get blinds or lined curtains that block the light into the room until you’re ready for the sunlight.
Learning to meditate is easy, and the benefits support all age groups. Meditation is a relaxation technique accessible to all ages, and provides both physical and mental benefits that are conducive to complete sleep.
Drink a Cup of Tea
Chamomile tea has provided soothing relaxation for soon-to-be sleepers for centuries. In addition, there is also evidence that chamomile tea can help lower blood sugar in people living with diabetes. If you or your loved one is allergic to chamomile (a member of the ragweed family), try Ashwagandha tea or Passion Flower.
Constant brightness and glaring lights can affect our bodies by creating the perception in our brains that the sun is still shining. To prepare our bodies for sleep, it is best to relax in a semi-lit room. Install dimmers in hall lights and keep nightlights in the hallway for night trips to the bathroom.
Establish Regular Sleeping Hours
Routines are dependable, and having a sleep schedule helps train the body when to go to sleep and when to wake up. Once a ritual has a strong foundation, sleep will come more easily and be more consistent.
Help transition through life changes: Losing a loved one may make it difficult to sleep in the master bedroom. Major depression and moving from one’s long time home can make it difficult to sleep. When these things occur, love and compassion can help to smooth the transition make it easier to sleep.
Remember that obtaining a healthy amount of consistent sleep is vital to a healthy brain and body. It may take some time to adapt to a new sleep routine, but commit to these tips and you will see improvements. Sleep can be an individual thing – what may be helpful for some people may be unnecessary for others, so adapt these tips so that they fit your lifestyle.
Home Care Assistance of Prescott caregivers understand the impact that aging and life’s changes can have on a senior’s ability to sleep. Our care managers will work with you and your family to understand the factors that may be preventing a good night’s rest for your loved one and create a care plan that will help to improve it. They are trained to help your loved one eat well, exercise regularly and pursue interesting activities that work the body and mind.