Senior Sleep Issues: Tips For A Good Night’s Rest

senior sleep issues tips for a good nights rest

Sleep disturbances or trouble getting to sleep are common issues for adults 65+. Most commonly, senior sleep issues are caused by a range of factors, including medication side effects, lack of sufficient physical/mental exercise during the day, poor diet, or physiological changes in the brain that disrupt the circadian rhythm. 

Unfortunately, seniors with sleep disorders increase their risk of memory loss, fall accidents, mood swings or depression, chronic daytime sleepiness, and exacerbated symptoms of existing health conditions. The more seniors and their caregivers support healthy sleep conditions, the better quality of life the senior will experience.

7 Tips To Help With Senior Sleep Issues

 These seven tips will get your senior loved one on a healthier sleep schedule, and the effects will be noticeable.

Establish consistent sleep and wake times

The body likes to be on a schedule, and that supports a healthy circadian rhythm. To figure out what your loved one’s natural rhythm is, eliminate alcohol and other stimulants for at least 14 days. Then, each evening/night, have them go to bed right when they feel tired. After two full weeks of this, they will have reset their biological sleep/wake clock, and you’ll know how many hours of sleep they need each night.

Use this information to set consistent sleep and wake times and stick with it. 

Limit intake of stimulants at least 4 hours before sleeping

If your loved one hasn’t switched over to decaffeinated beverages, now is an excellent time to start. High-quality coffee and tea makers offer products that taste as good as the caffeinated version, without the risks. Within the handful of hours before sleep, cut out all stimulants:

Reducing stimulants in the brain and bloodstream makes it easier to fall asleep – and stay asleep.

Adequate sunshine exposure

Yes, seniors need to protect their skin from the sun and hydrate in the warmer months. Even so, adequate exposure to natural sunlight is key to helping the body maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Open blinds and shades during the day to keep interior rooms light and bright during the day. 

Also, try to get outside at least once a day for a natural dose of sunlight and vitamin D. If weather permits, outdoor activities are the optimal way to get exercise, fresh air, natural sunlight, and “nature baths” – proven to improve moods and mental outlooks.

Build exercise and physical movement into each day

Despite its innate need for sleep-related restoration balance, a body that isn’t tired has a more challenging time falling asleep. Our caregivers are always happy to exercise with clients, so they have company, or we can take them to their favorite community exercise center/class.

Walking the dog, hiking on accessible trails, riding a bike (or an adult trike for stability), senior or restorative yoga classes, stretching, or having a dance party are all ways to keep a rotating list of activities. For more tips, we recommend learning more about:

Engage and challenge the mind

Similarly, a bored brain is a lethargic brain. Failing to ensure seniors are mentally stimulated, including learning new tasks, hobbies, or skills, puts them at risk for insomnia. It also makes them more likely to feel isolated, lonely, depressed, or anxious. 

Make sure aging loved ones have access to their social network, even if that means finding them a new source of transportation. They should also be reading or listening to audiobooks, engaging with word or number puzzles, playing card or board games, taking a class at local junior college (or online!), or joining classes or activities offered by local art and community or senior centers. The more active and engaged their mind is by day, the more easily it stays asleep at night.

Senior sleep issues can be helped by establishing a pre-sleep routine

Remember we mentioned that our bodies prefer a routine? The pre-sleep routine is a great place to establish that. By repeating the same types of behaviors or activities each night before going to bed, the brain responds by relaxing once the routine begins. 

Examples include:

  • Taking a warm bath or shower
  • Getting into clean and cozy pajamas or sleep-friendly clothing
  • Using calming essential oils in a diffuser or misting them onto a pillow
  • Closing all the window shades to block out exterior lighting and distraction
  • Turning all the lights down in the house (prioritizing ambient safety lighting)
  • Listening to soothing music
  • Reading or being read to

Focus on red light spectrums after lights out

Melatonin plays a significant role in healthy sleep patterns. It’s naturally released via the body’s circadian rhythm and the darker, post-sunset hours. We recommend switching from bright to ambient light at least one to two hours before bedtime. You should turn off the TV and all screens/gadgets at least 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep. 

Interestingly, the red light spectrum does not affect melatonin and other sleep-friendly hormones, so we recommend switching all of your nightlights to the red light spectrum, allowing seniors to get to/from the bathroom without disrupting the melatonin feed. 

HomeAide Home Care Can Help With Nighttime Senior Care

Sometimes, sleep issues are a sign of dementia or Alzheimers, and both of these can make it harder for seniors to get a good night’s rest. Certain medical conditions may also play a role. Working with a home care agency can be a good way to ensure your loved ones can remain safely at home while still getting the sleep they need. Contact HomeAide Home Care to learn more.

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