Sleep is an essential component of both physical and emotional health. As people age, they may start experiencing challenges in getting enough sleep as well as getting quality sleep. If you’re waking up tired, experiencing sleepiness during the day, or having trouble falling asleep, you may be experiencing insomnia and not just age-related sleeping problems. Here are some ways to stay vigilant on your sleep quality and quantity and get a good night’s rest.
Why is Sleep Important?
Sleep is important because it allows the body and brain to recharge. Sleep helps with memory formation, concentration, allows your body to repair cell damage, and refreshes your immune system. Studies have linked lack of sleep in older adults to depression, memory problems, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and weight problems.
Scientists recommend that older adults try and get roughly 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night. However, the exact amount of hours differs per person based on their body makeup and schedule during the day. An excellent way to find your optimal sleep pattern is time how many hours you sleep in on the weekend and comparing to your weekdays.
Causes of Sleep Problems in Older Adults
Many reasons could be contributing to lack of quality sleep in older adults. It’s important to identify these causes so that you can remove them and get a good night’s sleep. Some are easier to tackle than others. For example, if you feel stressed, you may have to work out those psychological issues on your own, but if you’re watching too much television before bed or drinking too much caffeine during the day, you have to cut these out of your schedule.
Stress is one of the most significant underlying causes of lack of sleep in adults. This can be caused by anything from the death of a loved one, to recently moving, to retirement. Stress is a difficult emotion to manage, but by identifying the underlying anxiety, you can unpack it and manage it.
Poor Sleep Environment
You may be sleeping in an environment that isn’t conducive to sleep. Lighting conditions, noise, and comfort are all important factors that determine quantity and quality of sleep. You may also need to figure out better hours to be in bed with the lights out.
Older adults usually take some form of medication. If you’re taking medication to ask your doctor about any possible side effects related to insomnia. They may prescribe you a medication to help with sleep or switch your current prescription over to a different one. There are even certain vitamins for seniors that help with overall health, including the promotion of sleep.
Lack of Social Outlet
It may seem surprising, but the more social you are, the better sleep you could be getting. Socialization for seniors helps use up energy to make sure your body is ready for bed by the end of the day. It also allows you to release your anxiety through conversation with another person about your stressors.
Lack of Exercise
Likewise, you could be suffering from a lack of physical activity to tire your body out. If you are too sedentary, your body may have trouble discriminating between when it’s supposed to be awake and when it is supposed to be asleep. Regular exercise is an essential part of senior fitness and health.
How to Improve Your Sleep
Since everyone is different, you should run through this checklist of items to figure out what the cause of your insomnia is and what the corresponding solution should be. In most cases, improving sleep revolves around a combination of improving your sleep environment and habits, reducing stress, and being more active during the day.
A well-known supplement and naturally occurring chemical in your brain is melatonin. This chemical is a hormone that makes you sleepy, and any artificial light can suppress the body’s natural production of it. To ensure you’re getting enough melatonin, you can start taking medicinal supplements that are available at any drug store, or you can reduce your exposure to artificial lights before going to bed. These include any electronic devices such as Kindles, phones, or television screens.
Make a Better Sleep Environment
Ensure that your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet for when you are ready to drift off. As humans age, they become more susceptible to being woken while asleep. For this reason, you should do everything possible to reduce the noisiness of your bedroom. This can be done with a sound machine, ear plugs, or sleep mask. It also helps to reserve the bedroom strictly for sleep. This way you associate it with getting a good night’s sleep instead of working or watching TV.
Keep a Consistent Bedtime Routine
This one goes back to building better sleeping habits. You should try and go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This is more easily said than done, but creating a regularity to your sleep schedule makes it easier to fall asleep when you need to. You can also incorporate some relaxing activity into your bedtime routines such as taking a bath, listening to relaxing music, or meditation.
Manage Daytime Naps
If you’re feeling utterly exhausted during the day, it may be useful to incorporate naps into your routine. Experiment with different nap types to figure out what works best. Most people try to limit naps to within 15-45 minutes. Anything longer can throw off your body’s internal clock and disrupt your sleep later that evening. Aim for something short in a comfortable environment, and try not to nap too late in the day.
Two of the worst drugs that affect the chances of getting quality sleep are alcohol and caffeine. These culprits seem to help you manage your sleep schedule, but they do the opposite. Caffeine can wake you up, but it will also keep you up. And alcohol may help you go down, but it makes your quality of sleep significantly worse. Try to cut out all coffee, alcohol, tea, or chocolate late in the day.
Thanks for reading our tips on maintaining quality sleep as you get older! At Landmark Senior Living, our goal is to create the utmost in independent living and assisted living for every one of our senior housing residents. Our independent living program is tailored to each individual’s needs, and our broad range of activities and events will help you to feel fulfilled during the day and ready to hit the hay at night.