How Seniors Can Sleep Betteradmin
As people get older, they grapple with many changes that commonly include more health problems, less mobility, and issues with sleep quality. In fact, according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of older Americans struggle with insomnia symptoms at least a few nights per week. Whether you or a loved one are suffering from sleep problems, it is important to address how to sleep better as we age. Higher-quality sleep can help improve physical and mental health for seniors.
How Sleep Changes For Seniors
As people age, they often fall asleep for shorter periods of time, get less effective sleep, and fall behind on their slow-wave sleep. At the same time, they may become more sleepy during the day and start to take naps. They may even experience sleep latency and sudden awakenings. Being asleep for shorter time periods and at lighter levels means that seniors do not spend as much time in REM sleep.
Seniors deal with a lot of changes, such as less active lifestyles caused by retirement and an increasing amount of financial and emotional stress. It is important to listen to their concerns, take them seriously, and encourage counseling and family involvement whenever possible. Help promote a “can-do” attitude. Life does not need to become less meaningful as someone ages. It is just as important for older people to get out and socialize and to continue challenging themselves both mentally and physically. Encourage them to volunteer, get part-time work, take classes, learn new skills, and engage in daily active movement such as a yoga class or a hiking club.
Illnesses and Medical Conditions
Illnesses and medical conditions are a common cause of many sleep issues in seniors. For example, arthritis can make it hard to get comfortable in bed and movement can be painful. Likewise, urinary issues can cause a person to wake up to go to the bathroom multiple times per night. Another common condition is sleep apnea, which predominantly affects males older than 40, as well as overweight people. People with sleep apnea experience breathing disruptions during sleep. Other conditions may include pain from cancer or osteoporosis, acid reflux, lung disease, or heart disease.
Medications that are designed to help these conditions and others might be a double-edged sword, serving to keep seniors awake when they should be getting shut-eye. When a senior is having a problem with sleep, it is always important to rule out any possible medical link or connection to medication. In some cases, a doctor will be able to adjust a prescription to allow for better sleep.
People of any age can have poor sleep behaviors, such as using electronics right before bed, consuming alcohol close to bedtime, and keeping the light on in the bedroom. To this end, a critical solution is to establish healthy sleep routines. Seniors should avoid exercise, stimulants, and caffeine in the three to four hours before bed. It’s also important to signal their bodies and brains that sleep is coming soon by a doing something calming, such as drinking milk, taking a warm bath, or reading a book.
It is best to associate the bed with comfort, so that means staying off the bed while doing potentially anxiety-inducing activities such as reading on the tablet or watching television. Watching the news or hearing about a loved one’s personal crisis does not do wonders for a good night’s sleep either, and the artificial lighting from electronics can be disruptive as well. A senior should not have to deal with noise, light, or movement in his or her bedroom at night.
On a deeper level, changes in daytime behavior are often necessary to help a senior person sleep better at night. For example, more exercise during the day wears a person out. Likewise, decreasing the length and quantity of daytime naps helps, but it means helping a senior seek out more opportunities to stay engaged and mentally alert instead of being bored. Coupling these types of daytime behavioral differences with building a nighttime routine (or creating a better one) has the potential to make a world of difference.
Eating and Drinking Habits
Poor eating habits frequently cause sleep problems in seniors as well. They need to bypass spicy, greasy, and heavy foods in the few hours before bed — ideally much earlier during the day, too. Protein intake might need to be kept in check as well, since meat and other sources of protein can be difficult for bodies to digest. Sugar can also wreak havoc with insulin levels and sleep patterns, and people who have problems with frequent urination should not drink liquids for 90 minutes to two hours before going to sleep.
Fruits such as bananas, peaches and cherries make for good evening snacks, as they soothe the body and promote sleep. Moderate amounts of lean protein such as turkey or eggs can also be satisfying and healthy. Additionally, herbs such as peppermint are tasty and serve as relaxing aromatherapy as well.
Get A Good Old Night’s Sleep
The ways to help seniors sleep better often come down to a few proactive changes, such as consulting with a doctor to check the possibility of underlying illnesses and medication side effects. Just as important is ensuring that senior citizens receive plenty of stimulation and engage in challenging activities, both mental and physical. This helps them stay alert during the day, reducing both the need and the opportunity to nap. The key to getting a good old night’s sleep is to treat it as an all-day issue rather than as a nighttime problem.