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Elderly Sleep Guide: Tips to Ensure the Sleeping Comfort Of Seniors

Elderly Sleep Guide: Tips to Ensure the Sleeping Comfort Of Seniors
As time goes on, a lot of the things we take for granted become harder to achieve. Sadly, sleep is the most common challenge as we get older. Luckily, science can help us understand why we can’t sleep and what we can do about it. 

Sleep is a necessary part of life. Irritability, lack of focus, and just benign plain fatigue are just some of the effects. For a long time, people thought these were all part-and-parcel with getting older. 

However, getting older doesn’t mean you have to experience these problems. From hormonal changes in our bodies to the beds we use, the various aspects of our daily lives have an effect on our sleep cycle.

As with many things, the first step to effectively addressing the problem is to first understand why these changes are happening. 

Why did sleeping become such a challenge? 

As we age, the hormonal makeup of our bodies change. Melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy, naturally increases towards the evening while serotonin levels decrease. 

This process changes as we age. As our growth hormones diminish, our melatonin levels are also affected. Basically, our brain has a harder time telling if we’re tired or not. This is why we notice changes in our sleeping habits like waking up earlier and feeling sleepy earlier.  

Aside from that, noise and bright lights have a stronger effect on older individuals as well. This is why a lot of older people report being light sleepers despite being heavy sleepers in their youth. 

All this is normal. But while this is no cause for panic, it doesn’t mean that things can’t be better. Looking at it positively, this is one problem that’s easily solved. 

How much sleep do I need?

Just because the elderly wake up earlier doesn’t mean they need less sleep. In fact, older individuals need as much sleep as young adults do, about seven to nine per night. 

What this tells us is that those sleep problems, if any, should be addressed right away. This goes especially for elderly individuals undergoing medications. Harsher treatments often have a debilitating effect on our bodies. You’ll want to make sure you are well-rested. 

Unfortunately, those same medications can also be the cause of sleep deprivation. Thankfully, we can work around them by developing healthy habits that can improve the quality of our sleep.

Tips for more restful nights

1. Set a schedule 

Seeing how important sleep is, it stands to reason that a little discipline is required to get you back into rhythm. The simplest thing you can do for yourself is to work your schedule around your resting hours. 

This means sticking to a sleeping schedule as much as possible. This helps bring your Circadian rhythm back into the right place. And, these rules must apply to both the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. 

If your 9 hours of sleep is meant to end at 8:00 am, then you should stay in bed until then. It might be a challenge at first but, as we all should know by now, developing the habit takes time. 

Once you’re sticking to the schedule, things will sort themselves out. Try writing it down or using a smartphone to remind you. The most important part is starting. 

2. Bedtime requires preparation 

Like with many things in our lives, sleep requires a little preparation. It doesn’t have to be stressful, in fact, that won’t help you much as we’ll talk about later. No, what we simply mean is making sure everything you need to sleep is in order.

Are your fuzzy slippers by your bed? Do you have a glass of water handy? Oftentimes, it’s the simple things that can keep us up. We’ll want to avoid that by thinking ahead. 

The next time you go to bed, try taking note of the things you need and, more importantly, the things you often have to get up for. 

The kind of bed you use will be a factor as well. You can find a diverse selection of beds online for this. This guide from Senior Strong focuses on adjustable beds just for the elderly. 

3. Try to relax before bed

Being tense is not the best state to sleep in. That’s why we look at sleep as a moment to relax. Lead yourself up to it by trying to relax before you get to bed.

We all know the feeling. Sometimes, it’s a small, annoying thing that happened a few minutes before. Other times, it was a bad day that’s causing you stress. When we get home, all we want to do is go to sleep.

But lo and behold, we end up staring at the ceiling unable to get a wink of sleep. The problem is our brains. Being in that state keeps our brains active, preventing our bodies from feeling the need to sleep. 

Learn a few breathing techniques, read a book, or listen to music. Whatever sets your minds at ease should be the last thing you do before bed.  

4. Food can help

The kind of food we include in our diet is a factor here too. Remember that issue with melatonin we were talking about earlier? Fortunately, certain foods have been found to contain them as well. 

Olives, grapes, and peaches are just some of the fruits that you can eat to help boost melatonin levels. This helps you feel sleepy when you need to feel sleepy. 

Alternatively, you could also choose foods rich in Vitamin B6. That’s because they help in converting serotonin into melatonin, helping your body maintain its cycle. Examples are lean beef, bananas, and spinach. 

5. Too much food won’t help

All that doesn’t mean you should stuff yourself with food before bed. That’s actually one of the worse things you could do. Not only does it not help, but it’s also bad for your health.

That’s because digesting food actually uses up energy. Digesting while sleeping is a combination that is not advised by professionals. I mean, sleeping is meant for your body to stop using so much energy, right? 

Another reason is the risk of indigestion and other similar ailments. I’m sure we all know how uncomfortable that can be. Going through that while trying to sleep will be a very difficult task indeed. 

6. Napping late in the afternoon won’t help

While this may be obvious to others, it’s still a common habit shared by many. Be it cultural or habitual, sleeping in the afternoon can be very relaxing. The problem is, it ruins our rhythm.

So what can we do about it? Try spending the time using up energy instead. I know, it seems to be the opposite of napping, right? The thing is, using up that energy means you’ll have an easier time falling asleep later. 

Go for a walk outside to wake up if you’re feeling a little drowsy in the afternoon. If you’re feeling a little friskier, try going for a short run. The important thing is to prioritize the sleep you’ll be having in the evening. 

7. Alcohol won’t be any good here

Those long nights spent staring up at the ceiling might have led some of us to depend on alcohol. While having a drink or two every once in a while isn’t wrong, relying on the drink to get to sleep is.

Every other tip in this list should help you fall asleep faster. Still, it is important we bring this up lest anyone gets tempted. We won’t judge you, but we also won’t advise you to do that either. 

Replace bad habits with new ones. If you get tempted, try reading a book instead. It’s about maintaining that discipline. Which brings us to our next point.

8. Routine matters

This one is more about habits. Looking at things from a behavioural perspective, human beings appreciate a routine. It helps our bodies predict when something is going to happen. This goes for sleep as well. 

Develop a routine before your bed. Think of it as a ritual. Say, at 6:00 PM you have dinner, right? Follow that up with a short walk at 7:00 to help you digest then maybe read a book at 8:30. 

Over time, your brain will learn to associate that sequence of events with approaching bedtime. This helps your rhythm settle into place and your body adapts to the cycle. 

9. Stay away from caffeine late in the day

Lastly, another seemingly obvious point but one worth mentioning. Avoiding coffee in the afternoon shouldn’t be too hard, right? Well, many of us forget coffee isn’t the only thing with caffeine.

Don’t forget that teas and sodas also contain this chemical. Have a glass of water instead of a can of coke with dinner. It’s healthier for you generally, plus it means an easier time falling asleep. 

Sadly, this list will have to include chocolates as well. Different kinds of chocolates will contain different levels of caffeine. You could still do the research and look for a brand that has the least amount.

Have any more questions? Don’t hesitate to comment below!

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