Anyone who’s ever had a bad night’s sleep can understand how vital sleep is to one’s overall health. Those who experience sleep insufficiency are more likely to have chronic diseases such as diabetes or depression, and continued lack of sleep is closely associated with anxiety, pain, and distress. A healthy adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but we often struggle with getting the right amount.
Sleep problems are common, especially among seniors and those who take care of them. As we age, the way we sleep changes. The deepest sleep, slow wave sleep, becomes shorter and more elusive. By the age of 70, nighttime sleep shrinks to an average of just 6.6 hours per night. Here are a few tips that might help seniors get a better night’s sleep—and can help you catch a few quality z’s as well.
First of all, if the senior in your life is able to exercise, keeping physically active is one of the best things people of all ages can do to help them sleep at night. Even taking a walk every day can help. Studies have shown that doing some light stretching before bed improves sleep as well.
When you’ve slept badly, it’s tempting to doze in the middle of the day. Especially among seniors who aren’t very active during the day, naps can steal sleeping hours away from the nighttime. Try and limit naps to no more than 30 minutes during the early afternoon.
Eating a light evening meal and cutting down on liquids during and after dinner can also help reduce middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. Coffee can help you feel alert during the day, but consuming too much can leave you wide-eyed when it’s time for bed. Comforting foods like bananas, toast, or oatmeal are actually beneficial as late-night snacks before bed—the carbohydrates and potassium help release sleep-inducing brain chemicals.
Troubled sleepers of all ages can benefit from developing a calming nighttime routine that is free from worrying tasks. Leave stressful tasks like filling out insurance forms or organizing schedules for other times of the day. When you try to move directly from an involved activity to sleeping, it’s no surprise that it takes a while for your mind to slow down! Instead, take some time to relax before bed, and create an environment that is slightly cool, quiet, dark and comfortable for the best sleep.
For more information about sleep disorders, sleep health and sleep safety, visit the National Sleep Foundation’s website at http://www.sleepfoundation.org/.