7 ways for seniors to sleep better tonight

Nov 09, 21

7 ways for seniors to sleep better tonight

Here's a fascinating myth about people who are over 50: do they need less sleep?

This is an interesting question that I've heard in the news lately. It's a fact that it's a lot harder to fully enjoy the golden years of your life if you're tired and exhausted every day. There are options to get more restful nights as you age, But is there any truth in this belief?

Before I address the question, however, we should look at the reasons why older adults may be having trouble sleeping at all in the first place.

Why Do Older Adults Have Trouble Sleeping?

As you age, there are a few specific sleep issues you experience that you did not experience in your earlier years. The way you sleep can change quite a bit as you age, and it's always been the situation. As a child, you required 9-12 hours every night; by the time you were a teenager, you would need 8-10 hours, and in adulthood, you'll need 7 to 9 hours.

Some of the sleep changes you could encounter as you get older may include:

  • A shorter duration of sleep or excessive sleeping
  • More nap time during the day and less sleep at night.
  • Nighttime sleep disturbances or increased the number of nocturnal awakenings.

According to a research study published by the Sleep Medicine Clinics, healthy older adults are less likely to have sleep disorders. Still, the root causes of the sleep issues are caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • The hormone and melatonin levels are affected. levels
  • Modifications to the cycles of their circadian rhythm
  • The pattern of sleep changes, just like the ones listed above

The changes happen naturally as you get older. But, your brain's normal aging can affect your sleep quality too. An aging Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN)--which is the region of your brain that controls the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle-could alter your sleep pattern and hinder your ability to have a quality sleep that you require as you age.

In addition to aging the brain and body, there are also factors in your health that could make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. A few of them are:

  • In the night, there are disturbances like discomfort or having to get up to go to the bathroom
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea
  • Disorders such as restless leg syndrome (RLS) or periodic movement disorder (PLMD), or REM sleep disorder
  • Menopause
  • Certain medications you could be taking -- more on this later.
  • Physical activity is reduced, or you may have an increased sedentary lifestyle.

With all of this at hand, we can address the question I asked within the piece earlier.

Do Older People Need Less Sleep?

Simply put, it's an illusion. Even as you get older and more tired, you'll still experience the same requirements for sleep as you've experienced throughout your adulthood.

As per the National Institute on Aging, seniors require 7-9 hours of sleep every night, just like most adults; however, the changes in their bodies undergo can make getting enough sleep difficult. It's as crucial to get the best quality sleep when you're a senior as earlier in the course.

Sleeping insufficiently isn't the only thing you must be aware of as you age, and sleeping too much is a risk as well. Recent research shows that long and short periods of sleep in the elderly are related to depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer's Disease.

The short duration of your sleep is linked to a higher quantity of amyloid-beta in the brain. Amyloid beta-protein could accumulate in your brain and disrupt the brain's cell activity. If this happens, it can affect your cognitive performance, and you feel the loss of memory and mental afflictions that come with conditions like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Although the impact on cognitive function of those who sleep for a short time was in line with symptoms of Alzheimer's, longer sleepers did not exhibit the same level of cognitive loss. However, excessive sleep could be a sign of other health issues.

Long-sleepers showed indications of underlying illnesses like heart disease, which can affect their sleep, which was not evident in the short-sleeping group. These conditions affected their sleep, leading them to stay awake longer to "catch up" from their inadequate sleep. If combined with poor quality sleep, the long duration of sleep could lead to indicators of cognitive loss.

Sleeping well at night ensures you are healthy and alert. Sleep deprivation in the elderly could increase the chance of accidents, falls, and injuries. However, older adults tend to be affected by sleep disorders, too-- therefore, what can you do to help you achieve the restful night sleep you deserve?

Sleep Tips for Seniors

Sleeping better as you age shouldn't be an obstacle. Read my seven suggestions to assist you in getting better sleep as you get older- you can take a look before going to bed at night!

  1. Create and Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule

Bad sleep habits can almost make sure you sleep poorly, but healthy sleep habits can bring more restful sleep. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is among the most crucial ways to ensure you get the quality of sleep you require each night.

If you've retired, you might not have much organization to your daily routine, or perhaps you don't have a fixed timetable. In any case, you must have an established time, the time you go to bed every night and the time you get up in the morning.

The practice of getting your body to sleep and rise simultaneously can help you sleep more easily each night and awake feeling more rejuvenated each day. It is important to practice this each day, even on weekends.

It is also essential to maintain a healthy sleep routine. In essence, it's any habit that you can practice before going to bed every night. Examples of good sleep hygiene are:

  • Avoiding big meals, caffeine, or alcohol for at least a few hours before going to bed
  • Give yourself ample time to get through your to-do list for the day before going to get ready for bed.
  • Relax and unwind after completing your evening's tasks
  • Put away your electronic devices at least an hour before your bedtime to ensure they don't impact your sleep quality.

    2) Don't Nap Too Late In The Day.

A nap in the morning will help you through the afternoon when you're tired before bedtime. However, it's crucial to take a nap in the right place at the time for optimal outcomes.

Some advantages of naps include:

  • Stamina and alertness increases
  • Stress reduction
  • A stronger immune system

The ideal time to sleep during the morning is from 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon. This is because the timeframe is synced to your circadian rhythm sleep cues and helps to counteract the tiredness you experience after lunchtime.

Be careful not to take long naps. You don't want to sleep for more than 90 mins. If you are napping for too long, it could disrupt your normal sleep pattern and make it difficult to fall asleep by the time you normally fall asleep.

3) Exercise At Least 4 Hours Before Bedtime

Active living is the key to living a healthy life, particularly once you're past age 55. Regular exercise can help maintain your health and keep the brain healthy, help combat chronic illnesses and help enhance stability and balance. It's also beneficial for your sleeping.

If you're not as active as you used to be, there's plenty of exercise to keep you active, healthy, and fit, as well as help you in sleeping comfortably. Try these exercises on trial if you're not certain how to begin:

  • Walking every day around the block or in the local park
  • Water or swimming exercises
  • Golf
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga

4) Don't Stay In Bed If You Can't Sleep

If you cannot sleep and you're stuck in bed, it is among the most insidious options you have. If you get up in the night or have difficulty falling asleep, Get up and do something small to help you focus on sleep for a few minutes. Here are some options:

  • If you're in a position to walk, do so in a calm manner around your home. Light movement can help to get ready for sleep without consuming too much energy.
  • Record any thoughts or feelings that you are feeling in your journal.
  • Concentrate on relaxing rather than sleeping. Stressing about sleep is likely to make the process of getting back to it harder.

You can try all of them as long as it is necessary to feel more at ease and ready to sleep. Be sure to do it at night in dim lighting too.


5) Short-Term Behavioral Therapy

The short-term treatment for behavioral problems can be very effective in treating seniors who have insomnia. In collaboration with more than 79 senior women and men, experts at the University of Pittsburgh set out to determine the effectiveness of this therapy be for people who have insomnia. The sessions were focused on helping the participants develop sleeping routines that were based on four main goals:

  • Reduce the amount of time each person uses the bed
  • The time you get up is the same every day
  • The participants would go to bed only to rest when they were exhausted.
  • Staying in bed only if participants were asleep

Participants were split into two groups. Both groups were involved in the therapy, but one group received individual counseling sessions while the other did not.

Both groups noticed an improvement in their sleep; however, the group that received further counseling showed more substantial improvement. Fifty-five percent of these people could even eliminate their insomnia, and they even managed to keep it off!

If you're suffering from sleeplessness, this could be something worth trying.

For more details on the study, read my post: 


6) Talk to Your Doctor About Any Prescriptions That Could be hindering your sleep.

Many commonly used medications could induce insomnia. They include:

  • Beta-blockers, such as those that are used to treat high blood pressure.
  • Dopamine agonists, such as those used to are used to treat Parkinson's Disease and restless legs syndrome
  • SSR Inhibitors (SSRIs), which include antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepine medicines, including Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin

If you suspect that your medication could be disrupting your sleep, make contact with a certified sleep specialist. They will help you make any adjustments to your medication schedule or suggest solutions that will both aid you sleep better and keep any medication you need.

Note Take note that you should do not stop or stop taking medication. It would help if you did not alter the dosage or medication regimen without consulting your physician first.

7) Sleep Safely

It's essential to take steps to protect your safety and health every night, particularly in the case of being a single person or having mobility issues.

Before going to sleep each night, be sure you've completed these steps:

  • Make sure you are aware of any tripping or fire risks inside your home, specifically when you need to rise and go to the bathroom at night.
  • Make sure you have a source of light like an electric table lamp or flashlight at hand if you have to get up. The use of a nightlight is a great idea if it does not keep you or your sleep partner awake. Motion-activated nightlights with low lumens could be a good alternative.
  • Have a cell phone close to the bed in case you have to contact someone for assistance. A landline or cell phone is a good option. Make sure that a cellphone doesn't keep you awake by pinging you notifications or distracting you from sleeping.

Worried About Sleep Disorders? When to Seek Help

Sleep disorders such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are very common among seniors. If you're not certain whether your sleep issues are due to a medical condition, It's a good idea to have a check-up. Speak to your doctor or a sleep expert to begin.

The signs that you might be suffering from a sleep disorder are:

  • Sleep onset times that are longer or take 30 mins or more before falling asleep every night
  • Waking up suddenly in the night.
  • Waking up way too early every morning.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Snoring loudly or indicators of a slowed breathing rate during sleep like gasping or choking.
  • Consistent sleep deprivation

If you're facing any of the above, find a reputable sleep specialist.

The idea that older people require less sleep is just that -a myth. In reality, older adults require the same amount of sleep they have always had during adulthood, and however, their altering bodies could make getting the rest they require difficult.

It doesn't have to be this way. Even if you're less healthy than you used to be, you can still have a restful night's sleep If you take care of your body. Try some of my sleep-related tips to try, and you could be sleeping like a newborn, even into your senior years.