Few things are more refreshing than a good night’s sleep. But for many older adults, a good night’s sleep is elusive. In fact, more than half of seniors suffer from insomnia. Lack of sleep makes you feel fatigued, cranky, and inattentive during the day, taking the joy out of life and increasing the risk of falls or other injuries. Lack of sleep can also exacerbate existing medical or psychological issues.
Seniors Have More Trouble Sleeping
A common misconception is that seniors need less sleep than younger adults. Not true, say experts – all adults need seven to eight hours of sleep to support good mental and physical health.
The likely reason for this myth is that our internal clock changes as we age, so seniors tend to go to bed earlier, get up earlier, and get poorer quality sleep in between.
It’s no wonder you can’t sleep – or at least not well enough. Common causes of insomnia include:
- Disorders such as sleep apnea syndrome, restless legs syndrome, and rapid eye movement behavior disorder
- A wide range of chronic or acute medical conditions from heart and lung disease to diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Depression, anxiety, and stress
- Poor sleep habits
- Inappropriate eating habits
- Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
- Environmental factors
- Genetics and gender
- Medications often prescribed for seniors
Some of these factors trigger sleep problems, while others perpetuate the problem.
COVID-19 Has Made Things Worse
A just-released study reports that 67% of Americans say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their sleep. Researchers suggest that’s due to the rise of anxiety and depression among all adults. COVID-19 has been especially hard on seniors, who are now physically isolated from their closest loved ones.
Although the study indicated older adults are actually sleeping somewhat better than younger generations, they are also getting less exercise – a key ingredient in good sleep and overall good health.
Here is What You Can Do
Whether your goal is better sleep for yourself or an elder loved one, these tips will help:
1. Talk to your primary care provider
Because there can be so many health-related factors that can rob seniors of sleep, the first step is a medical check-up. This can detect (or rule out) causes such as sleep disorders or medications.
2. Develop good sleep habits
A consistent bedtime schedule will help your body know when it’s time to sleep. Your bed should be comfortable, and your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and on the cool side – around 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Encourage your body to wind down
Don’t watch TV or use your cellphone for within 30 minutes of bedtime, because the bright bluish screen wakes up your body. Likewise, don’t eat heavy or spicy foods or drink a lot of liquids shortly before bedtime. Experts suggest you avoid caffeine and alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
On the plus side, a warm bath or a glass of warm milk can help induce sleepiness. So can relaxation exercises, deep breathing, or engaging in quiet activities such as reading or listening to music (no rock ‘n roll, please).
4. Get plenty of exercise during the day
No napping! It’s tempting to nap when you feel snoozy during the day, but that merely promotes sleeplessness at night. Instead, the more you exercise or engage in activities that force you to move around, the more your body will be ready to rest at bedtime.
5. Don’t just lie there
Counting sheep doesn’t work. If you’re still awake 20 minutes after going to bed, get up. Move to another space and do something calming such as the suggestions above.
Once you understand what’s likely causing your lack of sleep -- or lack of truly restful sleep – you can take steps to improve the situation. You’ll be able to say, “Good night” when you go to bed, and mean it.
Curious about senior living at Magnolia Manor? Contact us at 855-540-5433 to get more info and schedule a tour.