No matter the age, sleep is so vital to our health. A common belief is that as we age we need less sleep. That is a myth, as seniors need seven to nine hours of sleep on average per night.
As we age our bodies produce less growth hormone, which disrupts our deep sleep patterns. This leads to less melatonin to be created, meaning we have a harder time falling asleep and wake up more often during the night. Many other factors fall into place as well. And many can be changed with better habits. Getting older does not mean we are not able to have good sleep.
Some causes of senior sleep issues:
- Changing sleep architecture- Sleep architecture refers to the basic structural organization of normal sleep(REM vs NREM sleep).
- Menopause, which can carry into post-menopause.
- Chronic health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.
- Prescription medications can disrupt sleep or cause insomnia.
- Increased sedentary lifestyle or not exercising during the day.
- Grief and loneliness due to life changes or loss of loved ones.
- Depression and anxiety; financial stress.
11 Sleep Tips:
- Reduce stress levels – Many life changes occur as we age such as retirement, death of loved ones, family changes like a move, and can lead to stress which interrupts sleep. Find someone to talk with about your feelings so you do not hold them in. Listen to soothing music before bed. Read a book to feel relaxed. Or get a massage to relax and allow a peaceful state of mind.
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule, and bedtime routine – Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Also, get in a routine at bedtime. Whether you wash your face and brush your teeth, or take a warm shower or bath before bed; keep a consistent routine to allow the brain to recognize the signals for bedtime.
- Eat and drink well during the day – Diet plays a big role in our sleep patterns. Have a light snack prior to bed if you wake during the night due to hunger. Also, diets high in sugar can wake you from a deep slumber; try to cut out sugars and refined carbohydrates. Avoid big meals and spicy foods close to bedtime, which can cause stomach discomforts. Avoid caffeine late in the day which will keep you awake. And avoid fluids close to bedtime, which will wake you up when you have to go to the bathroom.
- Avoid alcohol – Although alcohol can make you sleepy, it does not allow for a restful full sleep.
- Exercise during the day – Hormones released during exercise can lead to better sleep. Also the exertion of energy during exercise will help the body promote more restful sleep.
- Get natural daylight during the day – Sunlight regulates our melatonin and our sleep-wake cycle. Keep shades open to allow natural light to enter your space. If you live somewhere that does not have lots of natural light during certain times of year, a light therapy box is a good idea to use daily.
- Limit daytime napping – This can be hard to do especially if you are not sleeping well at night. If you do need to nap, try to keep them short in duration from 10-40 minutes in length. Also try to get your nap in early in the day so you are sleepy at bedtime.
- Devote the bedroom to sleep only – Our bedrooms can become a space to do everything, from an office space to another living room with tv watching. Allow the brain to only see the bedroom as a space for sleep and sex. Sex and physical intimacy such as cuddling and hugging can promote more pecaeful sleep, too.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet – All of those qualities help in a restful, peaceful, and long sleep. Use a fan, sleep noise machine, and eye mask if needed.
- Avoid sleep aids and medications – Some can help in the short term with falling asleep, but long term effects can be negative. Also, some medications can cause disruption in your sleep cycle. Make sure you discuss any medications, even sleeping pills or melatonin, with your doctor. Get the okay before mixing them together, or taking any at all.
- Remain calm if you do wake at night – Deep breathing or meditation can help you fall asleep again. Try to stay in bed unless you are awake for more than 20 minutes. After that you can get up, trying to stay calm and quiet, lights dim, maybe read a book or listen to soft music. Then try to get back to bed. Sometimes we wake with anxious or stressful thoughts. When this occurs, have a pad of paper and pen handy next to the bed to jot these thoughts down on. Allow them to come and go until the morning when you wake. Then you can deal with those thoughts.
Another sleep habit or tip to consider is when we wake in the morning from our night’s sleep. Sometimes we rush to get out of bed without properly allowing the body to fully wake and stretch. This can lead to vertigo, dizziness, and falls. Be mindful of your sleep-wake pattern. Try to allow for time after waking to stretch and slowly rise out of bed. Also, be aware of your surroundings and how feet feel when they touch the floor. Take your time, with no fall or trip hazards around you.
Good sleep habits will keep you in better health and feeling great! They will help to keep you All Over Strong! Sweet Dreams!
Stay Happy, Healthy, & Confident Always!