Senior Living Care Blog

How To Sleep Better As You Age

Posted by Sara Niemiec on Apr 23, 2019 11:00:00 AM

Getting to sleep better as you age is important for living a healthy and happy life. And insomnia is a problem that many suffer from and can impede your physical and psychological abilities and can lead to irritability and lack of motivation or energy. One aspect that needs to be considered when discussing healthy sleep cycles is age. As we age, it becomes more likely that we will deal with sleep problems.


According to the Handbook of Clinical Neurology, 40 to 50 percent of people age 60 and over report sleep disturbances. These complaints range from problems falling asleep, to difficulty with sleep maintenance, nightmare awakenings, and early morning awakenings. For severe cases, insomnia may be present. Insomnia is defined as the inability to initiate or maintain sleep, this results in daytime consequences.


Despite these problems, there are ways that seniors can change their daytime habits to help induce sleep during the nighttime. For example, by exercising, limiting alcohol use, and more, older adults can fall asleep quicker, sleep longer, and have better quality of sleep. Similarly, some seniors may elect to use medication to help with sleep problems like insomnia. This is always an option but can lead to some issues such as dependence or health problems like dizziness.



Insomnia and Seniors

The senior population is growing and as baby boomers continue to age, it will soon become one for the largest populations. And, as the population grows, more attentions is being placed to be sure that the quality of life for older individuals is maintained during the aging process. Insomnia is one condition that can cause quality of life problems.


According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, insomnia is commonly seen in older adults and it is associated with multiple consequences related to health. It is often under-recognized, under-diagnosed, under-treated in the general population and is a common complaint among older adults. Insomnia is correlated with a greater risk for falls, a major problem for seniors that leads to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year.


Insomnia Treatment

The goal of insomnia treatment is to improve sleeping time and inception. Generally, medication is prescribed to help with sleep maintenance and problems. Normally, for geriatric patients, the lowest effective dose is recommended paired with short-term treatment, gradual discontinuation. It should be noted that while there are over-the-counter medications to treat insomnia and other sleep problems, they provide only short-term help and can lead to side effects that affect health such as dizziness and difficulty with balance. Some of these medications can also be habit-forming. While medication can be an effective form of treatment, some professionals will go a different route.



Sleeping Tips

A clock next to a cup of tea and a book on a bed. There are many ways to try to sleep better as you age.

There are a number of methods that you can enact in order to manage and improve sleep problems. One of the easiest ways to improve sleep ability and quality is to limit use of television and computer before bedtime. Getting off these devices at least one hour before bed can be effective in boosting melatonin levels, the hormone associated with inducing sleep. Too much screen time can cause this natural hormone to run low in the body. Similarly, getting out in the daylight can help with sleeping patterns. Aim to get at least two hours of sunlight a day, because sunlight is known to help regulate melatonin.


Along with getting sunlight and limiting technology time before bed, there are a number of other methods to improve sleep. For example short naps can be helpful, but just be sure to take naps early in the day. Taking a nap too close to your nighttime sleep will impede your ability to fall asleep. Some other tips for improving your ability to fall asleep include:


Eating Healthy

A bowl of mixed vegetables. Eating healthy will help you sleep better as you age.

Keeping a healthy diet is one of the best things that you can do to maintain and improve your physical and mental health. Specifically, limiting caffeine intake and avoiding big meals before bedtime are two daytime habits that you should incorporate to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Overall, though, getting a diet that is low in sugar and high in nutrients while also watching calories is one of the simplest ways to maintain a healthy diet.


Avoid Alcohol

There is an association insomnia and alcohol use disorder. While there is some evidence that shows lower doses of alcohol may increase total sleep time, higher doses lead to short-term withdrawal and sleep disruption. While many people use alcohol as a sleep aid, it may be impeding their ability to get a proper night’s sleep. It is best to not look to the bottle when you are faced with sleep problems such as insomnia.



A woman walking up the stairs. Exercise is a great way to help sleep better as you age

Along with eating properly, exercise is a great way to promote mental and physical healthy. While there still needs to be more research on the effects that exercise has on chronic insomnia. Of the few studies that have been conducted, evidence shows that exercises significantly improves sleep of people who are struggling with chronic insomnia. One study found that after 4 to 24 weeks of exercise, adults with insomnia fell asleep more quickly, slept longer, and had better sleep quality than before they began exercising.



Now What?

Sleep disturbances are a common problem among the elderly community. Insomnia is a severe form of a sleep disturbance defined as the inability to initiate sleep. If this is the case for you or your loved one, it can lead to many daytime consequences. Luckily there are a few strategies that you can use to help your body induce sleep at night and sleep better as you age. For example, creating a healthy diet plan, exercising, and limiting time with devices, can all be effective in improving sleep time and quality.

If the problem becomes severe enough, insomnia may cause some to need to enlist the help of others. If this is the case, assisted living facilities can give your loved one the care that they may need. Landmark Senior Living is one facility that can help your loved one stay healthy and happy at this point in their life. If you want to learn more about what Landmark has to offer, visit our website and schedule a complimentary walkthrough of one of our facilities.



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Topics: Senior Health

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