A Guide to Aging without Sleep Problems
Many people will experience changes in their sleep patterns as they age. As many as 7 in 10 older adults struggle with some form of chronic sleep issue. Are you having trouble sleeping? We understand that sleep issues can interfere with your daily routines and even reduce your quality of life.
Here’s a look at some of the most common sleep issues facing seniors today, along with tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.
Common sleep problems among seniors include:
- Nighttime urination
- Restless leg syndrome
- Daytime drowsiness
- REM sleep behavior disorder
- Sleep apnea
It may be natural to reach for a sleep aid when you have trouble getting the rest you need. It would help if you were careful, however, as some of these can be habit-forming. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to get your body and mind ready for sleep that doesn’t require chemicals.
How to Improve Your Sleep as You Age
Despite the changes that happen to us as we age, there are still steps older adults can take to stay on a positive sleep cycle and avoid feeling tired.
Here are some tips to help seniors sleep better:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule–stay away from abrupt changes to your sleep schedule. A consistent routine means waking up and going to bed at roughly the same time each day and not napping too long in the middle of the day.
- Remove distractions from the bedroom–things like TVs, cellphones, and bright lights can make it harder to fall asleep. Avoid having a TV in your bedroom and try not to fall asleep with the TV. Keep the bedroom for sleep.
- Work out–older folks who exercise regularly can fall asleep faster and get better sleep in general. Look at the exercise tips for seniors provided by the National Institute of Aging.
- Create a bedtime routine–doing certain activities can put people in a more relaxed mood and ready for sleep. These activities can include taking a bath, reading, or finding some quiet time.
- Stay away from substances that keep you awake–this can include alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and eating large meals (especially spicy) before bedtime. Try to avoid these substances at least four hours before turning in for the night.
- Nap the right way–keep naps short, no more than 45 minutes at a time, to keep you alert throughout the day. Don’t nap too late in the evening, as this can disrupt your nighttime sleep.
If you’re experiencing regular insomnia despite taking the above-listed advice, keep a sleep journal for a few weeks and bring this to your doctor. Keep track of your medications, exercise, alcohol and nicotine use, and recent stresses. Your doctor may need to refer you to a sleep specialist for further treatment.
Sleeping pills can be effective when taken sparingly but shouldn’t be taken to cure insomnia. On the contrary, they can worsen your insomnia in the long term. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Xanax, and Valium can be harmful to brain function and are habit-forming.
Melatonin is an over-the-counter hormone that helps with sleep. Your brain creates melatonin to help you fall asleep naturally. Taking it for long periods is not generally associated with withdrawal symptoms.
Rest Easy with Gulf Coast Health Care Post-Surgery
Getting enough sleep, between seven and eight hours per night, is vitally important for seniors. Insufficient sleep can lead to a higher risk of falls and accidents. If you’re recovering from surgery, you need to make sure to get the rest your body needs to heal fully.
Gulf Coast Health Care provides seniors with various post-surgical recovery services to get them back on their feet. We base your recovery on realistic goals achieved through specific treatments, patient education, and rehabilitation therapies.
Find a Gulf Coast Health Care center near you and give us a call today.