10 Tips for Seniors with Trouble Sleeping
It’s not uncommon to experience the occasional restless night now and then. However, if you notice that falling asleep or getting a restful night of sleep is becoming increasingly more difficult, there could be a bigger problem at hand. A lack of sleep can lead to increased frustration and other, more serious health conditions. Sleep is just as essential for your cognitive health and physical wellbeing as food, water and air. Uninterrupted sleep is necessary to help keep both your mental and physical health in check as well.
So, what is there to do when a full night of sleep seems unattainable? If you have issues falling or staying asleep, you may be experiencing insomnia. Insomnia in seniors is a very common complaint. In fact, the National Institute of Health says that around 50 percent of adults over the age of 60 experience insomnia. If left untreated, insomnia and other sleep issues can result in depression, irritability, memory loss and more.
Even if you don’t have insomnia, up to 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women over 65 find it hard to fall asleep each night. Even worse, once they do eventually fall asleep, they are unable to sleep as soundly as they were able to do in the past. The natural sleep cycle can be disrupted by everything from too much caffeine to the food you eat and even an increased need to use the restroom during the night. The inability to sleep well can not only be exhausting, but overtime can increase your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Keep reading to check out a few of our top sleep tips for seniors and begin on your journey to a more restful night’s sleep!
Sleep Tips for Older Adults
1. Understand Your Sleep Needs and Create a Nighttime Routine
Have you ever wondering why seniors sleep so much? They may have more time or be dealing with health issues, but it’s likely not a physiological need you should be concerned about. In fact, research suggests that sleeping patterns do change as we age but these changes are not profound. While many people believe that they must get at least eight hours of sleep each night, as we age our sleep phase starts earlier, but doesn’t need to last longer. From the ages of 18 to 81, the average amount of sleep we need each night only shrinks by about one and a half hours. This means that around seven hours of sleep each night is a great target number.
One of the best ways to guarantee that you’ll get a restful night of sleep is to understand your sleep needs as an older adult and come up with a comfortable nighttime routine you can stick with. If you can, try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up around the same time every morning as well. Additionally, if you follow the same rituals or routines in the evening, you can help to prepare for a regular bedtime.
2. Make Your Bed a “Sleep Only” Zone
While it may be tempting to linger in your bed in the mornings with a cup of coffee and a newspaper, it’s best to use your bed for sleeping only. Getting up and out of bed in the morning is a great way to start your day off on the right foot and will prevent your bed from becoming an additional daytime hangout spot.
3. Cut Back on Caffeine
While you may be tempted to indulge in an afternoon pick-me-up with coffee, caffeine can make it very difficult to fall asleep at night. Limiting caffeine consumption to the early morning and quitting smoking can also make sleeping soundly much easier.
Many people can drink a cup of coffee in the morning for an extra energy boost that won’t disrupt their evenings. But others can easily become overstimulated from that single cup full of caffeine. If you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine, be sure to stick to alternatives like tea — or skip it altogether.
4. Get Up and Move
Regular exercise is not only good for your physical and mental health, but it can result in a better night of sleep. You don’t have to become a gym rat to enjoy the many benefits of exercise either. Simply take the time to find an aerobic exercise that you enjoy and helps to keep you fit. Try walking with friends, swimming or running. Each of these exercises will help you to fall asleep more quickly, awaken less often throughout the night and get a high level of restorative deep sleep each night.
Eating a balanced diet and working to maintain a healthy weight for your age and stature – both of which tie into exercising and staying physically healthy – can also help enhance your quality of sleep.
5. Say Goodbye to Tobacco
There are a million reasons why you should stop smoking — even if it’s just the occasional cigar. One of the biggest reasons to say no to tobacco is to give yourself the chance to get more sleep. Nicotine is proven to make it more difficult to fall asleep each night, so do the right thing and say your goodbyes once and for all!
6. Be Careful with Alcohol Consumption
Many people use a nightcap to help them feel relaxed and ready for bed. Since alcohol depresses the nervous system, this is a remedy that has been used for decades. But while alcohol does make most people feel sleepy at first, it can actually increase your risk of insomnia. The effects of alcohol also wear off after a few hours and could result in waking throughout the night. Additionally, alcohol can lead to common sleep-breathing problems like snoring.
Many seniors also enjoy having a glass of wine with dinner, but like a nightcap, drinking late into the evening can be counterproductive to a good night’s sleep. Drinking in moderation is better for your overall health and sleep pattern.
7. Improve Your Sleep Space
Your bedroom should be a relaxing oasis that is kept away from the regular hustle and bustle of your day. Creating a comfortable sleep environment is one of the easiest ways to start falling asleep faster and avoiding disruptions during the night.
Similar to making your bed all about sleep, taking the time to make your bedroom more comfortable can help to make bedtime easier as well. Start by removing distractions like your TV, telephone and any other smart devices from the room. Next, reinforce that this is a place for rest by creating an environment that is quiet, comfortable, free from clutter and relatively dark. Additionally, investing in high-quality bedding is a simple way to make your bed more appealing and comfy, ideal for a good night of rest. The best beds for seniors will reduce trouble sleeping and provide a better overall living environment.
8. Limit Naps
Everyone can benefit from a good nap once in a while. But regular napping can easily disrupt your sleep schedule. If you take time out for a nap more than once or twice a month, you could prevent yourself from feeling tired enough to sleep in the evenings and reset your sleep cycle. If possible, limit daytime naps and allow yourself to have an early night instead.
9. Avoid Sleeping Pills
Skip over-the-counter sleep aids whenever possible to avoid disrupting your sleep cycle. Additionally, if you have been prescribed sleep medication by your doctor, talk to them about ways to use it effectively and use it for the shortest period possible.
10. Don’t Toss and Turn
If you are still awake in your bed 20 minutes after the lights are out, you may want to get up and read or meditate to help relax. Getting up out of bed to use the restroom or grab a drink of water can also help you to avoid tossing and turning for too long. However, it’s important to avoid screens or too much activity during this time.
Health Concerns that May Affect Senior Sleep for Seniors
While following these sleep tips for older adults can help improve your sleep quality, there are more significant health concerns that can’t be solved through general tips. A few include snoring, depression, and other health concerns like heart failure.
Erratic sleeping patterns and age shouldn’t go hand-in-hand. Snoring doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a medical issue like sleep apnea, but it is worth talking to your doctor about. Sleep apnea is a condition where people stop breathing for short periods of time while asleep, making it difficult to sleep soundly. Snoring may be one sign that you’re dealing with sleep apnea, so don’t ignore persistent or worsening snoring.
It is not uncommon for many seniors to feel isolated as they age and if you have untreated depression you could be at risk for additional health complications. If you’ve been feeling down and it is affecting your sleep, speaking to your doctor about therapy is important. Dealing with the root cause of depression could greatly improve your sleep quality and your overall quality of life.
Seniors sleeping too much may also be a sign of depression, so if you’re experiencing opposite symptoms, such as excessive sleep, you may also want to see a physician for a diagnosis.
Other Health Concerns
Are you one of the millions of Americans who likes to prop themselves up before going to sleep at night? If so, ask yourself why. If you can only fall asleep in a recliner or while upright in bed, this could be a sign that you are actually struggling with an underlying medical problem. If you’ve noticed that you cannot fall asleep while lying down in bed, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor to rule out more severe health problems like congestive heart failure.
Take Control of Your Sleeping Schedule and Health Today
There are few things more important to your overall health than a restful night of sleep, and as you enter your golden years, staying on top of your health becomes increasingly important. These tips for trouble sleeping can help you get a restful night’s sleep on a regular basis.
Everyone deserves to enjoy a restful night of sleep. If you’re struggling to get into a healthy nighttime routine, don’t hesitate to try one or more of these useful tips! Interested in more great health and lifestyle tips for seniors? Then be sure to check out our blog! At Havenwood Heritage Heights, we are proud to offer seniors access to a welcoming, safe and comfortable continuing care retirement community in Concord. If you would like to learn more about the living options we have available here in Concord contact us today.