Most of us know what we should be doing when it comes to sleep – going to bed early enough to get a good night's rest. But nowadays, with technology and busy schedules all around us, that task becomes more challenging every day. This could explain why the elderly sleep so much in the daytime when they should be doing it at night.
An estimated 38% of people age 55 or older experience some sleep disturbance each night. Fortunately, it is never too late to improve your sleep – even if you're a senior citizen.
The first thing you need to do is evaluate your sleeping environment and habits to create and maintain an area and routine conducive to better sleep.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Pack away the smartphone. Studies show that the light from our electronic devices can prevent hormone production needed for good sleep and keep us up longer. So please make a point to set your phone aside and stop using it once you get ready for bed.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleep. Since the bed is supposed to be relaxing, it's essential not to use it for other activities. That means no reading, working, or watching television in bed, especially right before you turn in for the night.
- Ensure the room is properly ventilated. You don't want excessive moisture or dust in your bedroom, which can contribute to difficulty breathing and sneezing during sleep.
- Take a hot bath before bedtime. A nice soak alone in the tub can make you feel sleepy and relaxed.
- Eliminate any distractions. If you know someone who tends to snore or gasp for air at night, the people living in the same household must know not to disturb you once you've gone to sleep.
- You should also create a restful environment with proper lighting and sound levels. Avoid bright lights and noise, and opt for low levels of background music or white noise instead. If possible, get yourself a nightlight (or soothing aquarium) for the bathroom so that once you're done, you can return to your bedroom without turning on bright lights that may interfere with your circadian rhythm.
- Get an early start tomorrow: Get to sleep by 10 p.m. This will allow you to get enough sleep to feel well-rested when you wake up in the morning.
- Limit your caffeine intake. Cutting back on coffee, tea, and cola can help you get better sleep at night because these drinks contain caffeine – a stimulant that disrupts the brain's ability to relax, preventing relaxation during sleep.
- Make getting enough food and exercise a priority for a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthily and taking time for physical activity each day can help you sleep better at night by reducing stress on the body, minimizing insomnia symptoms.
- Give your mattress a break: Making sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive of your spine will help you maintain proper sleep posture throughout the night, allowing for improved breathing and oxygen flow to the brain.
Why Are Seniors Getting Less Sleep As They Grow Older?
As mentioned, it's not that seniors are getting less sleep, but instead, it's because their circadian rhythms are off. Sleep is a crucial part of a senior's life because it allows their body and mind to relax. When a senior wakes up in the morning, they should have been well rested from a full night's sleep. If an older adult has not been sleeping well at night, multiple symptoms can arise, such as fatigue or excessive daytime sleeping, memory loss, and depression. So if your senior loved one is continuously tired and seems to not be at their strongest or most alert, this could be a sign that they are not getting enough sleep.
An article from healthline, goes over other symptoms that could arise if one is not getting enough rest at night, including trouble concentrating, mood swings, decreased energy, and feelings of sadness or hopelessness. There are many reasons why older adults may not be getting the proper amount of sleep it could be related to their health condition or medication they may be taking. But your loved one should always consult with their doctor if they are experiencing these symptoms so he/she can run multiple tests to see what might be the cause.
Other Common Sleep Issues
Sleep-disordered breathing such as snoring and sleep apnea are more common among seniors who are overweight. They are caused by the partial or total blockage of the passage of air through the airways to the lungs.
They could result in cognitive problems, stroke, heart disease, or an increase in blood pressure. The noise produced also distracts partners’ sleeping patterns. Losing weight and gearing up with noise blocks is necessary to restore balanced sleep for both parties.
Restless leg syndrome is characterized by tingling, pins, and or crawling sensations in the feet. It causes distress in the night causing one to kick every 20 to 40 seconds in their sleep.
Usually, it is a symptom of underlying health issues like iron deficiency, nerve abnormalities or kidney failure which needs tending to. People who experience restless leg syndrome should seek help from a physician.
Living in high latitude areas causes people to sleep less during the summer by a factor of 50 minutes as reported by Anchorage Daily News. More often than not, serious sleep issues are indicators of more serious health problems.
Knowing how to design sleep patterns to accommodate bodily changes in seniors, identifying sleeping disorders, developing ideal sleep routines, and seeking medical assistance when necessary is a sure way to improve the sleep quality of seniors. This quality sleep then works to improve their memory formation, concentration, and immunity.
Living longer and feeling better are just two results of getting the sleep we all need. If you live in Alaska and are looking for a sleep doctor, contact Alaska Sleep Clinic today to speak with one of our board-certified sleep specialists. Improve Your Sleep. Improve Your Life.