For older adults, getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis can be challenging. Lower melatonin levels, anxiety about aging, medications, and age-related health conditions like sleep apnea can cause seniors to have difficulties sleeping. In fact, according to a National Sleep Foundation study, 44% of older adults will experience insomnia at least a few nights a week or more. Many sleep experts believe seniors need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, while others think they need as many hours as young adults: about 8 or nine hours a night. All experts agree, however, that getting a good night’s sleep is equally as important for seniors as maintaining a healthy diet and exercise.
- Talk to Your Doctor. If you’re suddenly feeling tired during the day, waking up throughout the night out of breath or gasping for air, or snoring heavily- you could have sleep apnea, a potentially serious medical condition. Sleep apnea is linked to several medical conditions, including heart disease, and is more common in seniors who are obese or overweight. Certain medications can also interfere with sleep. Have a conversation with your doctor if you’re experiencing any symptoms associated with sleep apnea or if your sleeping patterns have changed since starting a new medication.
- Have a Bedtime Routine. Consider adding a nighttime ritual to help you relax and prepare for bedtime. Take a hot bath, read a book, or listen to soothing music before you turn out the lights. Avoid any bedtime routine that involves electronic devices. Studies have shown that taking laptops and smartphones to bed reduces one’s ability to get a good night’s rest.
- Drink Wisely. Sleep experts recommend avoiding caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening hours and avoiding all beverages an hour before bedtime as a full bladder can cause you to wake up to use the bathroom – and the bathroom’s bright light may interrupt your sleep even more. Contrary to what many believe, drinking alcoholic beverages before bedtime does not help you sleep better. In fact, alcohol consumption makes it harder to stay asleep and can put you at greater risk for sleep apnea.
- Make The Bedroom A Haven. Avoid using your bedroom as an area to exercise, or to perform work or a hobby. Keep your room as peaceful and relaxing as possible by making it warm (not too cold or hot). Sleep on a comfortable mattress that keeps your back supported, and use only a nightlight – for safety – when you go to sleep.
- Get on a Schedule. Going to bed at different times every night can disrupt your sleeping patterns. Try to go to bed at the same time every night – even on the weekends. Also avoid taking naps during the day, as it can prevent you from falling asleep later at night.
Restful, sound sleep is essential for staying active and healthy. If you think you need help getting a better night’s sleep, talk to your doctor. With some help, you can be on your way to a more refreshing night’s rest in no time.