Lets face it, almost everyone wants a little more time to snooze. Getting a good night’s sleep and waking up rested are important in maintaining concentration, memory and focus, especially as we age. There’s no doubt that getting a solid seven to nine hours of sleep every night is essential, but the way you feel upon waking—and feeling well rested throughout the day—are good indicators of whether or not you’re getting the sleep you need for optimal quality of life. With that said, our caregivers at JCHC broke down sleep patterns in seniors and even put a list of tips together to help seniors get better sleep.
Sleep patterns in seniors
Before diving into better sleeping tips, it’s important to understand the ins and out of senior sleep patterns. Due to hormonal changes, older adults may notice changes in their sleep patterns such as waking up earlier in the morning or getting sleepy earlier in the evening. Other seniors may find themselves becoming “light sleepers.” While these changes are normal with aging and are relatively easy to adapt to, insomnia, disturbed sleep or waking up tired all the time, are not normal and can negatively affect your health. Insufficient sleep can lead to irritability, memory disorder and attention issues, and may also increase the risk of certain health problems and depression.
Sleep disruptions are not a normal part of aging, so it’s important for seniors to identify the underlying causes. These may be:
- Emotional or psychological – Feeling stressed or anxious, often from dealing with a significant life change or traumatic experience. Some ways to combat stress are to keep a journal, listen to calming music, do puzzles, and stay in touch with good friends.
- Medical – Certain chronic conditions may make it more difficult to fall asleep or cause you to wake up several times during the night. These may be sleep apnea, asthma, diabetes, heartburn, or arthritis, just to name a few. Medications may also be a factor.
- Sedentary lifestyle – Being too sedentary and not getting enough exercise during the day prevent restful sleep. The same goes for spending too much time indoors with a lack of sunlight.
Senior sleep tips
- Exercise and Daytime Habits – The more you move during the day, the more restful you’ll sleep at night. Some exercise measures and positive daytime habits include:
- Taking a walk outside, doing chair Zumba or performing gentle arm and leg exercises.
- Open the shades during the day to let in the sunlight or use a light therapy box.
- Avoid daytime naps so that you are more tired in the evening.
- Diet – Some sleep-friendly dietary measures are:
- Limit intake of coffee, tea, soda or chocolate late in the day (these all contain caffeine that will stimulate your system rather than invite sleep).
- Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime, as this disrupts sleep.
- Reduce your consumption of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates – fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are better for everyone.
- Avoid a big meal or spicy food just before you go to bed (major indigestion!)
- Limit your liquid intake about an hour or so before bedtime (cuts down on midnight bathroom trips).
- Sleep environment/habits – Maintain consistent sleep hours, and keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
- If you are sensitive to noise, earplugs or a white noise machine are helpful. Wearing a sleep mask can also keep out light that may cause sleep problems.
- Always turn off the TV before bedtime, preferably an hour before you plan to go to sleep.
- Don’t use backlit devices such as tablets or e-readers before bedtime. The artificial light these devices emit can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Using a supplemental low-wattage lamp at your bedside will help with this if you are a late-night reader.
- Mindfulness meditation and deep breathing are excellent ways to induce relaxation.
Making small changes from the list above can help improve your sleep experience if you’re having trouble sleeping or are not feeling rested when you wake up. Of course, if problems persist, please consult your physician to make sure there are no underlying medical issues that are affecting your sleep.
Prioritizing better sleep habits at Lester Assisted Living
Lester is an assisted living community dedicated to helping older adults live full, happy and healthy lives. With an active community spirit, spacious apartments, great exercise programs and support services designed to maximize independence, we’re a welcoming space for seniors to really feel at home. Our staff is also available on-site 24/7 to assist with any personal issues, such as having trouble sleeping by incorporating one of the methods above into the resident’s daily routine.