A lady covered with a blanket in her bed and her cat at her feet.She's tired but can't sleep.

Sleep Smarter, Age Better

Introduction:

In this blog post, we will explore effective sleep tips specifically tailored for older adults to help them sleep smarter and age better.

By implementing these strategies, older individuals can improve their sleep quality and enjoy the benefits of a well-rested body and mind.

As we age, quality sleep becomes crucial for our overall health and well-being, so 

let’s dive in to learn more about why quality sleep is so important for older adults.

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The Health Consequences of Poor Sleep

As individuals age, their sleep patterns and needs may change, and this can lead to a lack of adequate sleep.

Not getting enough sleep can cause health problems, and lead to long-term health consequences in older people. 

According to Deborah Freeland, M.D. in an article about the long-term health consequences of poor sleep,these consequences include: 

  • reduced quality of life
  • high blood pressure 
  • weight gain 
  • Stroke
  • heart attack 
  • diabetes 
  • memory problems 
  • increased risk of death

Reasons for Inadequate Sleep in Older Adults:

  • Medications: Older patients take an average of 5–9 daily medications, some of which can interfere with sleep and wakefulness.

  • Physical health conditions:

  • such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease 

  • Mental health conditions: 

  • depression, bipolar disorder,and cognitive impairment including dementia and Alzheimers. 

  • Sickness

  • cancer, Parkinson’s disease, over-active thyroid,asthma,

  • Chronic pain: 

  • osteoporosis, back pain, fibromyalgia,and headaches 

  • Sleep Apnea: 

  • Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep.

  • Insomnia: 

  • People with insomnia have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. More than half of all elderly people have insomnia.

  • Increased stress and anxiety due to lifestyle changes:

  •  retirement, social isolation, and loss of independence can cause sleep issues in older adults. 

A 2023 study from Harvard and Monash University researchers found that: 

  • Going to bed and waking up at consistent times with few mid-slumber interruptions matters even more than how long you sleep. 
  • Consistently sleeping six hours per night was linked to a reduced risk of premature death compared to irregular sleep patterns of eight hours, including interruptions and napping.  
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule decreased the likelihood of early death by 20% to 48% when compared to those with the most erratic sleep habits.

an older woman is reading a book in bed.There's a blue and purple frame around the picture.

Tips to Help Older Adults Improve

Sleep                        

  • Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule:    

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, helps regulate the body’s internal clock. 

  • Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

  • Engage in calming activities before bed, such as reading, listening to soothing music, or taking a warm bath.  This will send a signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.

  • Limit Stimulants 

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, especially in the evening, as they can disrupt sleep patterns. 

  • Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment:

     Ensure the bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows that support proper alignment. 

  • Memory foam mattresses (Amazon link)are a good choice because they can contour to their bodies. This will help relieve pain and allow the joints and muscles to relax.

  • You can also find many memory foam pillows such as the Donama cervical pillow.(Amazon link) This pillow is a popular choice for those looking for high quality neck support.

  • Limit Daytime Naps

     While short naps can be beneficial, avoid naps over 30 minutes during the day, as they can interfere with nighttime sleep. 

  • Stay Active During the Day:

  • Engage in regular physical activity, such as walking or gentle stretching, to promote better sleep at night. However, avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime. 

  • Monitor Medications: 

  • Many over the counter and prescription drugs can contribute to sleep issues. Consult with a healthcare provider to review medications and discuss any potential side effects on sleep. 
  • Limit Fluid Intake Before Bed:

  • To avoid disruptions from nocturia (excessive nighttime urination), limit fluids in the evening.  
  • Manage Stress and Anxiety

    Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, to reduce stress and promote relaxation before bedtime. 

  • Address Sleep disorders

    If you experience persistent sleep problems, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, seek evaluation and treatment from a healthcare professional. 

  • Light Exposure

     Exposure to natural light during the day can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Aim for at least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure each day. 

  • Limit Screen Time

    Minimize exposure to electronic  devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, before bedtime. The blue light emitted can interfere with melatonin production and disrupt sleep. (I definitely need to start doing this…) 

Conclusion

In conclusion, prioritizing quality sleep is essential for older adults to age better and maintain overall health. 

By following the sleep tips outlined in this post, such as establishing a consistent bedtime routine, creating a comfortable sleeping environment, and incorporating relaxation techniques, older adults can improve sleep quality and enhance their well-being. 

Better sleep leads to better aging, so try to sleep smarter to age better.