Discover the connection between sleep and aging and how to help seniors sleep better.
Getting older means more than physical changes. Many older adults start having troubles with sleeping and about 44 percent of older adults experience some symptoms of insomnia and sleep issues at least a few nights a week.
Do you wonder why seniors can’t sleep? Discover the connection between sleep and aging and how to help seniors sleep better.
Why Do Seniors Have Sleeping Issues?
There are several stages in sleep. The sleep cycle has periods of light and deep sleep and also times of active dreaming or REM sleep. This cycle repeats throughout the night.
When a person ages, sleep patterns can change. People may wake up more throughout the night or have a harder time falling asleep.
Seniors may also sleep less, with an average of 6.5 to 7 hours of sleep each night. Some seniors also notice that waking up from sleep is more abrupt, making it feel like they are lighter sleepers than before.
Seniors also have less time in the dreamless, deep sleep. On average seniors, wake up 3 to 4 times each night minimizing that deep sleep. Seniors may wake up to use the restroom, because of pain, or from anxiety.
Sleep issues can lead to mental health issues and irritability. It’s also a major cause of auto accidents and depression.
Seniors need sleep to help improve concentration and help the body refresh their immune system. Lack of sleep can also lead to other serious health issues. There are ways to help improve sleep and get much-needed and feel great. Here are 9 of them.
- Follow a Consistent Bedtime Routine
It’s important to maintain a steady and constant sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day even on weekends. Pick a time that is consistent with when you feel like it’s bedtimeeven if it’s earlier than normal.
Find a routine that works for you and make it a bedtime ritual. Try doing the same thing each night before bed, like taking a warm bath, reading, or practicing deep breathing. Combine intimacy and sleepsex, and even just hugging, can help a person sleep better.
- Diet Changes
The body’s melatonin increases naturally at night to sleep. Try adding some foods rich in melatonin to your diet, such as peaches, cherries, apricots, and other fruits.
Other foods with high amounts of vitamin B6 can also help your body regulate sleep. These foods include salmon, tuna, garlic, halibut, and pistachios. Make sure you have enough magnesium in your diet as well.
- Review Your Lifestyle
Along with eating sensibly, it’s important to check your lifestyle and make sure you are at a healthy weight and exercising regularly. Find an activity you enjoy for exercises such as swimming, dancing, gardening, or hiking. It’s important to keep moving.
Avoid caffeine later in the day, and switch to decaf tea or coffee after lunch. This afternoon boost can affect your body’s ability to relax at night.
- Relax Before Bed
Even before you are ready to go to bed, it’s time to start winding down. About 30-60 minutes before bed, start doing a quiet activity like listening to music, writing in a journal, or reading. You can also pray or meditate in a quiet, comfortable spot.
- Get Some Sun
Avoid sleep aids if possible. These pills are better to use for a short period of time versus a long-term solution.
Sun is a natural sleep aid and helps regulate your melatonin. Try to get about 30 minutes to 2 hours of sunlight to help your nighttime sleep. Keep your shades open during the day or use therapy lights if it is a cloudy day.
- Get Out of Bed
Don’t stay in bed longer to sleep more even if you woke up several times throughout the night. You will actually spend more time in bed lying awake.
You may feel more sleepy throughout the day, but you need to keep that consistent bedtime routine. By the end of the day, you will be able to have more bouts of uninterrupted sleep, and your sleep cycle will improve.
- Reduce Screen Time
You should limit TV and computer time for at least one hour before bed. You should also use low-wattage bulbs.
You should also not read from a tablet because the device is backlit. If you use a tablet to read, make sure it is not as bright and requires more light to see.
- Limit Alcohol Before Bed
Having a drink before bed is actually counterproductive. Alcohol can make you sleep at first, but it can actually make insomnia worse. Tolerance actually decreases with age, so it’s important to drink in moderation for better sleep and overall well-being.
- Create a Relaxing Environment
Your bedroom should be dark, cool, and quiet. People become more sensitive to noise as they age, so you might try a sound machine, ear plugs if your partner snores, or even a sleep mask.
In addition, make sure you only use your bedroom for sleep (or sex). Don’t read, check emails, or watch TV in your bedroom. If you do other things in your bedroom, you may subconsciously think about things other than sleep when you are in your bedroom.
Remove all the clocks out of the bedroom. They may actually cause more distraction in the middle of the night because a person will check the time and begin to stress. The clocks also add unnecessary light in the bedroom.
Sleep and Aging Final Thoughts
Seniors can improve sleep by practicing the right sleep habits. Creating a regular bedtime routine and being consistent with bedtimes. Sleep and aging don’t have to work against each other.
You don’t have to live with sleep problems. Poor sleep gets in the way of how you function and can increase your risks for depression, falls, and memory issues.
Check your medication to see if there are any side effects that can affect your sleep. Talk to your doctor if your sleeping does not improve.
If you feel you or your loved one needs more care at home, contact CareBuilders at Home. Seniors can relax more with additional help on services such as cleaning, errands, and personal care.