The older people get, the harder it is to enjoy a full night’s sleep. As they age, older people experience physical changes. That leads to them getting sleepier earlier and waking up earlier. Unfortunately, they also get less sleep even after eight hours a night. Insomnia is very common and that affects the quality of life because they get more tired during the day. It can also cause issues with memory and the potential for injury due to a lack of coordination. To improve an elderly person’s quality of sleep, it is important to understand the underlying causes.
Factors that may affect the quality of sleep in the elderly
There are different factors to consider when evaluating sleep complaints in seniors. It is because different problems may contribute to poor sleeping patterns. Having insomnia then or daytime sleepiness is not exactly an isolated symptom.
The first obvious reason for poor sleep in the elderly is chronic medical problems. These include arthritis and cardiovascular, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal issues. It is because the pain and discomfort of these diseases may delay relaxation and the onset of sleep. Neurodegenerative problems like Alzheimer’s disease may also cause a problematic sleep-wake cycle.
Poor sleeping habits
Irregular sleep and waking patterns from lifestyle can make it hard to get sleepy. Intake of caffeine can also create alertness. That staves off sleep for several hours. It means consuming caffeine beverages during the afternoon or evening impairs sleep quality. Similarly, alcohol intake may prevent deep sleep as well, though it is sedating at first. The effect is increased arousal later on at night.
Acute symptoms from psychiatric issues can impair deep sleep. For example, insomnia is a symptom of depression in people. It means tendencies for early arousal in elder people can be made worse if they are suffering from depression. Research studies have also found that reduced sleep quality is a psychological manifestation of mental and emotional issues. That is related to the life changes that elderly people often experience.
Some medications are natural stimulants so they may cause sleep disruptions. These include antidepressants, decongestants, anti-hypertensives, and corticosteroids. Even the use of diuretics at night can cause one to wake severally to relieve themselves. Sedatives as well should be considered as they may cause excessive daytime sleepiness leading to sleep disruption at night.
How to improve senior sleep
Raise the head
Elevate the head of the bed during sleep to prevent the collapse of the airway. It can also reduce the risk of snoring and sleep apnea issues. If the person is positioned appropriately, it can be a pain reliever. That reduces any discomfort and allows the onset of sleep. Inclined bed therapy may help reduces the symptoms of conditions like acid reflux. It can also prevent conditions like ventilator-associated pneumonia.
Caffeine is a common stimulant but most might not know it can lead to sleep disruptions. It may be advisable to stop consuming caffeinated products. Energy drinks, tea, chocolate, and soda should not be taken at least five hours before going to bed. The same goes for tobacco. Elderly people should avoid smoking cigarettes before they go to sleep as it is also a stimulant.
Reduce daytime napping
Daytime napping may be a habit, especially if one is retired and there is hardly anything to do. However, it can also disrupt the sleep pattern so you might find it hard to get to sleep at night. Not napping during the day, it sets a schedule for waking and sleeping so the body wants to rest at night.
Create and stick to a routine
Bedtime routines may seem patronizing. Though, there is sense behind them other than sleep training young children. The goal is to train your body to know it is time to go to sleep. People have different strategies like reading a book or even watching a movie after a long day of work. Though it may be tempting, try to avoid using electronics after a certain time. The reason is the light and visuals may prove distracting. It disrupts the typical sleep schedule.
Give yourself 20 minutes
If you are not asleep after 20 minutes there are other ways to get some rest. Go to another room and do something relaxing such as listening to music or reading a book. That also applies if you suddenly wake up during the night. When doing this, try not to watch the clock as you attempt to get some sleep. This will increase stress levels and make it even harder to get sleep. This will employ a fair bit of self-discipline because one would be tempted to see how many hours till dawn. If necessary, you can turn the clock’s face away.
Change your sleeping environment
Temperature changes, noise, and even light can cause interruptions to your sleep. The room where you sleep should be cool, dark, and quiet. That is because exposure to light in the evening may it much harder for most people to fall asleep. It would also be advisable to avoid the use of mobile devices before going to bed. That would mean using room-darkening shades, fans, or earplugs. It is to create a stimulus-free environment to suit your needs. It would also help to engage in calming activities like a bath or get a massage to get deeper sleep.
Address stress levels
Psychologically speaking, there is a link between emotional distress and sleepless nights. Everyday worries such as finances, health problems, and relationships. You might want to watch trying something entertaining like reading a great book. Worrying from an overactive mind but it is possible to relax by distracting yourself. Focusing on family and friends may help you not only fall asleep but have pleasant dreams. Another approach is medication. Over-the-counter sleeping aids such as melatonin and antihistamines are a great option. They are a short-term solution though but not recommended for long-term therapy. Over the long term drugs decrease the quality of sleep following prolonged usage. So it would be good to focus on the specific causes of the sleep issues and talk to the doctor if things do not improve.
Getting quality sleep is more of a challenge for the elderly than it is for younger people. The reasons for this vary from health issues to positioning and daily activities. Regardless of the reason for insomnia, the goal is to reduce stress and improve the quality of life. That means creating an environment that is suitable for pleasant sleep. It also means planning the day in such a way that favors uninterrupted sleep at night. It may seem harder, as there is a lot of temptation to sleep during the day and engage in activities at night. Though, this requires some self-discipline. It also means self-care decisions. These include quitting tobacco and reducing alcohol intake in the evening. The issue may prove a bit trickier if it is a medical issue or brought on by taking medication. In either case, it would be advisable to seek guidance from your trusted physician.