A good night’s sleep can be hard to come by for many, especially seniors. Research shows there are a variety of reasons, from sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome, why up to 30% of the population suffers from insomnia. Older adults are even more susceptible to sleep disorders and problems.
Seniors often have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Many simply give up and accept that restful sleep is just no longer in the cards for them. Unfortunately, a number of negative health consequences are associated with a lack of quality sleep, including:
- Unintentional weight gain
- Depression or change in disposition
- Increased risk for diabetes and cardiac diseases
- Higher incidence of falls, a leading cause of disability
- Weakened immune system
By contrast, the benefits of quality rest are numerous.
Benefits of a Healthy Night’s Sleep
Here are a few reasons sleep is so important and why it’s essential to overcome any challenges you may be facing:
- Pumps up the immune system, helping you ward off colds and viruses
- Makes you more inclined to eat a healthy diet and not reach for baked goods and comfort foods
- Lowers your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer
- Helps you feel energized and alert so you can stay more active
- Gives the mind and body an opportunity to restore and refresh
In honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, March 8–15, we offer tips for getting a good night’s rest.
5 Ways to Sleep Better at Night
- Create a better sleep environment: Power off your television and devices at least one hour before bedtime. Turn the thermostat down and pull the blinds. Creating a dark, peaceful environment can help promote better sleep. If you just can’t rest when it’s too quiet, try turning on a white noise machine or a fan.
- Get daily exercise: A sedentary lifestyle is linked to poor sleep. By limiting the time you spend sitting, as well as increasing your daily exercise, you may improve your ability to get to sleep and stay there. Walking, swimming, and gardening all have therapeutic benefits for the body and mind that might help you beat insomnia. It’s usually best to exercise early in the day as evening exercise can stimulate the brain, making it tough to fall asleep.
- Limit caffeine intake: Many people rely on a cup or two of coffee to get rolling in the morning. The caffeine helps provide a little extra energy to start the day. Having too much caffeine or consuming it late in the day, however, might contribute to sleep problems. It’s not just coffee you need to beware of, either. Candy, tea, soda, chocolate milk, and even some ice cream flavors have it as well. Try to limit caffeine consumption to morning hours and see if your sleep quality improves.
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule: Another tip often recommended by sleep specialists is getting up and going to bed at the same times each day. An irregular sleep schedule can interrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Set an alarm so you rise at a similar time, even on weekends.
- Skip the alcohol: People sometimes think a glass of wine before bedtime will allow them to relax and drift off to sleep. In reality, alcohol disrupts melatonin in the body and wreaks havoc on sleep/wake cycles. It also worsens conditions such as snoring and sleep apnea. Both lead to poor quality sleep.
- See your doctor: Despite your best efforts, sleep may still be elusive. For some older adults, an undiagnosed medical condition is the cause. If you’ve tried everything to get a good night’s rest, it might be time to discuss the matter with your primary care physician. The doctor can refer you to a specialist who will likely order a sleep study. That allows the physician to identify potential issues and make recommendations for treating them.
Sleep is just one of the factors that contributes to a healthy lifestyle for older adults. For more information, a good article to read is 7 Tips for Successful Aging. It covers issues that impact your body, mind, and spirit as you grow older. Clearwater Living communities make it easier for residents to enjoy this essential balance every day!