Why Sleep is Important as One Ages
Almost a third of our lives are spent sleeping. Therefore, it’s important to understand the relationship between aging and sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for both physical and mental health and one’s overall quality of life.
Poor sleep is not a normal part of aging.
Sleep patterns change as we age. Many older adults feel sleepier in the evening and awaken earlier in the morning. But disturbed sleeping and waking up tired are not part of normal aging.
How Much Sleep is Ideal?
The National Sleep Foundation National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary – PubMed (nih.gov) dispels the myth that older adults require less sleep.
It strongly recommends 7-8 hours of sleep a night for adults, including seniors.
What’s Interfering with Your Sleep?
Mental and physical health conditions may interfere with sleep. These may include:
- Depression or anxiety
- Heart Disease and diabetes
- Frequent Nighttime Urination (nocturia)
- Insomnia (Most common sleep problem in those 60+)
- Restless Leg Syndrome (Periodic limb movement disorder causing legs to jerk and kick every 20 to 40 seconds during sleep.)
- Sleep Apnea (Pauses in breathing while sleeping)
- Arthritis or other conditions causing discomfort and/or pain
- Alzheimer’s Disease quite often changes sleeping habits-too much, not enough. This affects caregivers too, leaving them tired.
Side effects of medications, including over the counter medications, may also complicate sleep.
Other factors impacting sleep include:
- Napping-keep these short and done by 3 PM
- Less Structured Sleep Schedule
- Electronics (TV, computer, cell phone, tablet) Used Close to Bedtime
- Social Isolation Resulting in Stress and Anxiety
- Waking Up During the Night
Ways to Improve Sleep
Create both a bedroom environment and daily routines to promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Forming and sticking to good bedtime rituals is important. Try to:
- Set a sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, weekdays and weekends.
- Follow a nighttime routine. This may include locking all of the doors, ensuring all appliances are turned off, putting on pajamas, brushing your teeth and reading for a few minutes before turning the bedside lamp off.
- Unplug from Tablets and Cell Phones. Blue light in these devices decreases melatonin (a hormone produced to facilitate sleep) production and causes mental stimulation that is difficult to turn off. Experts advise staying off these devices 30-60 minutes before you go to bed.
- Dim the Lights and Relax. Focus on relaxation instead of the pressure of falling asleep. Try meditation, prayer, visualization and/or breathing exercises, aromatherapy, or background music or sounds.
- Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature and as quiet as possible.
- Get up. Instead of tossing and turning and getting frustrated, get up 20 minutes after trying to sleep and read or stretch. Keep the lights low and try again.
Healthy Habits Lead to Great Sleep
Pay attention to your daytime lifestyle. It also affects getting a good night’s sleep. If you aren’t already, try
- Exercise. Get physically active.
- Reduce Caffeine Intake. Especially true in the afternoon and evening.
- Eat an Earlier Dinner to Avoid Food Digestion at Bedtime. Keep snacks light before bedtime.
- Limit Bed Use. Train your brain that being in bed is used only for sleep and sex.
- Decrease Alcohol Consumption. It may put you to sleep but as the effect wears off sleep becomes disrupted.
- Get Sunlight. Daylight exposure encourages quality sleep.
- Avoid Smoking. Nicotine stimulates the body in ways that disrupt sleep.
Benefits of A Great Night’s Rest
Sleep is a time of rest and rejuvenation. It allows our minds and bodies to recuperate after a long day. Sleep is also an indicator of overall health and well-being. Getting the rest you need can help you stay both physically and mentally well as you age.
- Sleep boosts your mood.
- Quality sleep lowers your risk of diseases. Lack of sleep puts added stress on the body, leading to inflammation and a weakened immune system. While sleeping, our bodies undergo restorative functions like tissue repair, muscle growth and protein synthesis-all needed to keep our immune systems strong.
- Sleep helps maintain weight. Getting enough sleep keeps our metabolism moving at a healthy rate. If you’re sleep deprived, metabolism slows down, leading to weight gain. Experts say that you are 60 percent more likely to be obese if you get 5 or fewer hours of sleep a night. Sleep | Obesity Prevention Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Good sleep improves memory and concentration. A good night’s sleep is key to a healthy brain and a sharp memory. Lack of sleep affects decision-making abilities and long-term memory. Over time, too little sleep can even contribute to cognitive decline, memory loss and increase your risk of developing dementia. Bedtime is when your brain clears harmful toxins. More Information: Not all sleep is equal when it comes to cleaning the brain — ScienceDaily
Create a better sleep environment by:
- Darkening the Room. It can be as simple as dimming the lights as bedtime approaches signaling to your brain it’s time to wind down for the night. Again, turn off electronics reducing your blue light exposure. Lower your shades or use blackout curtains. Light slows the production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone which promotes sleep. Consider using smart bulbs that gradually fade when it’s near bedtime and slowly brighten in the morning.
- Lowering the Temperature. Experts consider 60 to 67 degrees optimal for high quality sleep, though this differs for everyone. Experiment and set the thermostat on what works for you.
- Reducing the Noise. Turn off all sounds, including the TV. A quiet room is much more conducive to a peaceful night’s sleep. If you live in a noisy area, consider products that mask noise like white noise machines, floor fans, etc. Definitely move the bed off shared walls and away from street-facing windows.
- Choosing a Comfortable Mattress and Sheet Set. The mattress, sheets and pillows you use is so important for a restful night’s sleep. The right mattress depends on your sleep position (back, side, stomach), whether you share the bed and other factors. A great pillow will support your back and neck; a poor one will have you waking up with neck pain, headaches and possibly arm numbness. Test out mattresses, pillows and sheets to understand which work best for you in achieving consistent good nights of sleep.
Keep it Safe
- Keep a telephone nearby in case an emergency call out is needed. Avoid the temptation to look at the bright screen while trying to sleep and turn notifications off so sleep is not interrupted. If not keyed into your phone, keep a list of emergency phone numbers next to your phone on the bedside table.
- Make sure a lamp or light is nearby. Don’t stumble out of bed subjecting yourself to a possible trip and fall.
- Put a glass of water next to the bed in case you wake up thirsty.
- Remove trip hazards like rugs, cords, stools and furniture.
- Never smoke in bed.
Call the Doctor or Sleep Specialist
If you are following these good sleep habits yet consistently having sleep problems and feeling tired and unable to do your activities for 2 or 3 weeks, you may need to contact your medical professionals.
These signs of little or poor sleep quality that should be discussed with a medical professional.
- Excessive snoring
- Daytime sleepiness
- A stop in breathing at night
- Mood changes or irritability
- Frequent awakenings at night
Wishing you a great night’s sleep, always. -Denise-
If Craft LifeStyle Management can assist you and your family during times of transition, please contact us. We’ve been serving older Americans and their families for over three decades and are ready to assist you in your time of transition.
What We Do – Craft Lifestyle Management (craftlifestylemgt.com)
A Good Night’s Sleep | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)
What is Sleep & Why is It Important for Health? | American Sleep Association
Home – Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation (rls.org)
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