Seniors And Sleep

Sleeping poorly isn’t just a part of getting old – so if it’s not just age, why can’t seniors get good sleep?

The fact is that as we age, our circadian rhythm – or internal sleep regulator – changes.  It naturally advances a few hours as a person grows older. When that happens, older people may feel they need to go to bed earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning, causing them to get sleepy in the afternoons.

Losing sleep at night results in a 24-hour problem for older adults. When seniors don't get the sleep they need at night, daytime drowsiness dulls the senses and saps energy, impairing the ability to perform normal activities – such as driving or concentrating on a task – and increasing the risk of having or causing accidents. Even catching up on lost sleep with daytime naps is risky. Daily naps can create a vicious cycle that disrupts normal sleep patterns, making it harder to sleep well at night. Sleep experts recommend seniors to limit naps to 30 minutes or cut them out completely if they interfere with regular nighttime sleep. Seniors’ need for sleep does not change with age, but their sleep patterns may so by making a few lifestyle changes, seniors can help keep their internal clocks on time and overcome sleep problems.

Tips for Seniors:

  • Use your brain by doing crossword puzzles, reading, writing letters, etc.
  • Stay as physically active as you can while maintaining your safety
  • Spend time outside. Sunlight brightens your mood and reacts with the Vitamin E in your skin, making you healthier and happier
  • Don’t cut yourself off from the world.  If you’re lonely, you’ll have more trouble sleeping
  • Cigarettes are a stimulant, consider quitting or cutting down on smoking
  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime
  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Check your prescription medications for side effects like sleeplessness
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool
  • Check your mattress to make sure it’s comfortable for you and provides proper support.  If it’s lumpy, sagging or worn, it could be part of the problem
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule – try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day
  • If your partner is restless at night, causing you to be unable to sleep, discuss these issues and try to resolve them together
  • If problems persist contact your physician for other possible solutions.  Medical conditions may be the cause of your sleeplessness