A good night’s sleep can dramatically affect our mental and physical health. For seniors, it can be difficult to get a full eight hours rest amid prescriptions, medical conditions, or even new environments. In the pursuit of senior health and wellness, it’s vital to address the hours spent in bed as an essential part of one’s daily routine. If you or a loved one are looking to improve the duration or quality of your sleep, consider the following eight tips.
1. Develop Consistent Routines
Thinking beyond the basics of going to bed at the same time every night, it’s important to develop a consistent schedule to follow before getting under the covers. Planning a small routine of activities like taking a shower, enjoying a tea or warm beverage, reading a book, or listening to music can help de-stress our brain and signify to the body that it’s time to go to bed.
2. Leverage Exercise
Aerobic activity and other forms of physical exercise are a great way to help the body release chemicals that promote a longer, deeper sleep. For seniors with limited mobility, there are various exercise resources that outline strength-training, flexibility, and cardiovascular activities that individuals of all abilities can participate in.
If you’re looking for new activities, refer to our blog post, Fun and Unique Senior Exercise Ideas.
3. Address the Stress
Often, the biggest enemy in getting a good night’s sleep is the stress felt throughout the day. Dr. Michelle Dossett, a specialist for the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine, explains to Harvard Health: “Many older adults have sleep problems. Stress may make it more difficult to fall back asleep, and the inability to clear these stress hormones from the brain during sleep means that the cognitive effects of stress can worsen over time.”
So, what does that mean in regards to senior health and wellness? You need to address the stress immediately. Eliminating stress-inducing factors in a routine, finding outside resources for support, and engaging a therapist as an outlet can all ultimately help improve sleep.
4. Identify Underlying Problems
In connection to stress, having a clear understanding of medical history, traumatic experiences, chronic illness, or health concerns can help us address the root of a sleep issue. In many cases, these issues can be treated and require the assistance of outside support. Talk to your primary physician if you have trouble sleeping.
5. Limit Caffeine and Liquids Before Bed
Caffeinated products like soda or coffee can significantly impact a senior’s ability to fall asleep in the evening. One should focus on consuming these beverages earlier in the day to minimize any negative consequences when it comes time to sleep. Additionally, drinking smaller amounts of liquid before bed can eliminate the need to use the restroom throughout the night. This tactic should never replace any recommended water or liquid intake guidelines from a healthcare professional.
6. Use Pillows for Body Aches
If aches or pains are causing restlessness throughout the night, a strategic placement of body pillows can help alleviate some of the pain and improve the quality of sleep. For example, an individual that sleeps on their back may want to place a small pillow underneath the knee, while a side-sleeper would place that same pillow in between. Refer to this Mayo Clinic resource for more pointers.
7. Adjust Diet and Food Intake
Better health and wellness for seniors can be addressed by making a few simple lifestyle changes, and often, one change will eventually have a positive effect on another. A great example is the link between diet and quality of sleep. By eating healthier food, both low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, one can develop a sleep-friendly diet that also actively benefits overall wellness.
8. Put Down the Device
Looking at a screen before bed can reduce melatonin secretion, decrease REM sleep, and make the process of falling asleep more difficult, according to a recent scientific report. Putting away devices for up to an hour before bed can help the body relax and prepare for a good night’s rest.
Improve Sleep for Better Senior Health and Wellness
We spend almost one-third of our lives sleeping. As we age, sleep is even more integral to overall senior health and wellness. Use the above tips to improve your or your loved ones sleeping patterns.
For even more health and wellness tips, head over to our blog post on healthy aging.