Many seniors experience issues with their sleep as they get older. The body and brain go through major changes, and those changes can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. However, sleep deprivation can have serious effects on a person’s health. Without enough sleep, seniors experience more memory loss and impaired judgment. Their coordination is off, making them more susceptible to deadly falls. It can also exacerbate physical health problems like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances. Seniors who don’t sleep enough are also at a higher risk of developing depression.
Not getting enough sleep can have a significant, negative impact on a senior’s overall well-being and quality of life. These helpful tips are specifically tailored for senior needs and lifestyles so they can get more sleep and feel better every day.
Go to Bed Earlier
Your body’s REM cycle goes through a slight shift with age. The body tends to tire down earlier while waking up earlier, as well. If you stay up even slightly past your body’s bedtime, you can miss that window of time when you are most ready to drift off. Try going to bed earlier to catch that sweet spot so you don’t end up losing hours of precious sleep. Remember that seniors need about seven and a half hours of sleep a night for optimal function.
Change Your Mattress
It’s not unusual for seniors to sleep more soundly once they throw out that aging pillow top and invest in a new mattress that offers better support. This is especially true if you are suffering from chronic lower back pain, which could make your old mattress obsolete. Before making a purchase, back pain sufferers should first identify their sleep position, as this will impact what level of firmness is needed in that new mattress. For example, side sleepers should choose a medium or medium-firm mattress and back sleepers will benefit from a firmer mattress.
Create a Healthy Bedtime Routine
Sleep hygiene refers to the lifestyle choices and practices people use for their best rest every night. A steady bedtime routine is the foundation of sleep hygiene. By having a few activities you regularly do at night before going to bed, you signal to your body that it is time to wind down for the day. Your bedtime ritual is personal and depends on your preferences, but feel free to use the following practices to inspire you and round out your routine.
- Switch off electronic devices — especially ones that emit blue light.
- The optimal bedroom temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees. Turn down the thermostat or add a fan to keep the room cooler.
- Try relaxation exercises such as yoga, controlled breathing, prayer, or meditation.
- Read before you fall asleep, as it improves your focus, promotes relaxation, and even influences your dreams!
- Sip a mug of hot herbal tea at bedtime. Chamomile, Valerian root, and lavender teas are all effective sleep aids. Avoid black and green teas that contain stimulating caffeine.
- Take a hot bath before bed. It will raise your body temperature slightly, and when you get out, the swift drop in temperature makes you feel drowsy and sleepy.
- Play relaxing music or invest in a white noise machine that helps to ease the mind and reduce noise disruptions that wake you up in the middle of the night.
- Try taking supplements that help you fall asleep. Melatonin is proven to help seniors with insomnia fall asleep easier. Magnesium helps your muscles relax and reduces feelings of anxiety. Always talk to a doctor before adding supplements to your routine.
Many seniors experience sleep issues as their bodies change with age. A shift in their natural circadian rhythm means it may be easier to fall asleep earlier. The mattress may also need to be switched out for something more comfortable. An effective sleep routine may be the only change needed — try adding healthy bedtime habits like meditating, reading, or drinking herbal tea as ways to let your body know it is time to sleep.