As people age and experience changes in their hormone levels and physical condition, they experience changes in their sleep patterns. Many of these changes are a natural part of growing older. However, insomnia (restlessness) and waking up tired after a long night’s rest are not normal parts of aging and should be addressed.
Below is a list of some of the most frequent causes and solutions for sleep problems in older adults. We hope that if you are having sleep troubles, you’ll be able to identify with one of these causes and take necessary actions to improve your sleep. As always, consult with your doctor about your challenges and any major lifestyle changes you are considering making.
One way to improve your sleep may be through more frequent exercise. “Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, and the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep. Exercise may also reduce insomnia by decreasing arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms” (sleepfoundation.org).
- Sleep Environment
Many people underestimate the importance of a bedroom designed to promote good sleep. Make sure your room is cool enough, comfortable, dark, and quiet. Adding scents you like can also increase your ability to relax and drift into a deeper sleep. It’s also important to make sure that your bedtime rituals are conducive to good sleep. Drinking alcohol or falling asleep with the TV on can prevent you from achieving the rest you desire.
Older adults oftentimes take more medications than younger people, and the combination of the many side-effects from these drugs can often cause sleep issues. If you feel that your medications may be causing impared sleep, reach out to your doctor. They may be able to adjust your medications to help you achieve better sleep.
Experiencing major life changes such as retirement or the death of a loved one can cause stress. One of the proven ways to reduce stress in older age is to make sure you have enough social engagement. Participating in social activities with family or friends can reduce your stress and prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. If you have the time, you could always try joining a senior group, volunteering, or furthering your education.
- Sleep Disorders or Other Medical Conditions
There are many health conditions that may interrupt or minimize the effectiveness of your sleep. If you suspect you may be experiencing underlying conditions which have inhibited your sleep, reach out to your doctor for help.
- Lack of Sunlight
Many people don’t realize that spending time in the sun leads to better sleep. But it’s true! Bright sunlight helps regulate the melatonin levels in your body. If possible, get at least two hours of sun each day, making sure to wear protective clothing or sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. If you’re unable to spend this amount of time outside, try to keep the windows uncovered or use a light therapy lamp (replicates the effects of the natural sunlight).
Here at Aspire Home Health and Hospice, your overall health is important to us. Because sleep is such an integral part of wellness, we hope that the above suggestions are able to help you achieve better sleep and overall success in your health and wellbeing.