How To Get Better Sleep
Ageing doesn’t have to come with sleep problems; with the help of some lifestyle interventions, it is possible for the elderly to overcome general sleep difficulties.
Elderly adults require the same amount of sleep as all adults in order to stay healthy: around 7-9 hours per night. Getting this amount—and getting good quality sleep—can reduce fatigue, improve cognitive functioning and boost one’s mood. But, as one ages, they may experience poorer quality of sleep or sleeplessness. This can be caused by various factors: medication that interferes with one’s sleep pattern; changes in the level of melatonin (a hormone that is associated with the regulation of the sleep cycle); medical or psychological conditions; various chronic conditions; increased sensitivity to environmental changes like noise; and many others. Impaired sleep has its own repercussions other than the most obvious which is fatigue. It can lead to attention and memory problems, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, more frequent naps during the day, change in mood, reliance on prescription sleep aids; these symptoms can even result in falls due to impaired focus.
While there are certain conditions that require medical intervention, like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, there are some general lifestyle changes that can improve one’s quality of sleep.
The body follows an internal clock—the circadian clock—that is driven by the circadian rhythm. Essentially, these internal 24-hour cycles help one fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning (they also aid in regulating body temperature, hormonal activity and eating and digestion). The primary circadian clock is influenced by one’s environment, such as light and darkness, which is why these rhythms are in sync with day and night. When the sleep-wake cycle is disrupted, it can lead to sleeping problems. There are ways to protect this cycle, the main one being getting enough exposure to sunlight. Try to go for morning walks and keep curtains drawn inside the house to let in enough natural light. Sticking to a schedule is also important for maintaining this rhythm, so try to go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time each morning.
Be sure to include some form of aerobic exercise in your day. Not only will this help you fall asleep faster, but it will also improve the quality of sleep.
Limit fluid intake before bedtime
A common reason for waking up in the middle of the night is to use the washroom. By restricting fluid intake before bedtime, one can reduce the chances of that happening. To that extent, avoid eating large meals before bedtime.
Limit naps during the day
Sometimes poor sleep at night can cause one to take naps during the day. This in turn can disrupt the sleep cycle, so try and shorten those naps if possible.
Create the right environment for sleep
Removing appliances and electronics from your bedroom could help as it instills the idea that the room is for sleeping; it also gets rid of distractions that could keep you awake, as even the light coming from these devices can interfere with sleep. Also, keep your room at a temperature that is comfortable: not too cold, not too hot.
Stress and anxiety can both impact sleep patterns. Finding out what works for you to de-stress is important, not just for sleep but also for a better quality of living. If there are some activities that help, like reading or listening to music, try and fit those into your routine before you go to sleep. Or, speak to your family or healthcare practitioner if you feel further help is required to manage your stress.
If you do have sleep apnea (which is an underdiagnosed condition) or insomnia, it’s best to consult a healthcare practitioner who can direct you to a professional. There are various ways to both diagnose and control these conditions, and the interventions can help tremendously.
At Seva At Home, we produce a wealth of free health information to help elders live healthier, happier lives. This has been produced by independent research carried out by the Seva At Home team. This information is not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician for relevant medical diagnosis and advice.
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