When we talk about seniors, some scenarios come into our mind unconsciously. For example, the senior is playing with their grandchild, dancing in the square, working on their golf swing or traveling around the country. So, we will naturally think older people would have no trouble sleeping at night.
However, what’s the reality? Nearly 50% of men and women over age 65 complains it takes them longer to fall asleep, and often wake up during the night. Why do seniors have more trouble sleeping? Let’s unveil the truth.
How Many Hours of Sleep Do Seniors Need?
Sleep experts recommend older adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. But it is more difficult to get an adequate amount of quality sleep for seniors as they tend to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier than younger people because of the decline of melatonin. So, figuring out what’s going on is the first step in being able to get enough good quality sleep which will help maintain physical and psychological health.
Common Sleep Problems For Seniors
As we get older, our sleep patterns will change due to changes in our brain wave patterns. For example, if you’ve ever tried to wake a sleeping child, it’s difficult, as children have higher and slower brain waves, which cause them to sleep more deeply. However, as we age, we tend to wake more in the middle of the night because some peaks become lower and faster.
We are more likely to develop a chronic illness as we get older. These illnesses lead to changes in our body which interfere with normal sleep. More than 44% of older folks experience one or more nighttime symptoms of insomnia twice a week or more and snoring has become a common sleep disruption for about 90 million American adults who are overweight.
Research has shown that our sleep remains constant from our 20s into old age, although the amount of sleep per night varies from person to person. However, many elderly individuals get less sleep than they need and often complain that they are suffering from:
- Taking a long time to fall asleep
- Effective nighttime sleep decreases
- Waking up many times at night
- Going to sleep earlier
- Getting up earlier
- Dozing time increases during the day
- Sleep adaptation decreases
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep problems in adults age 60 and older. People in this condition tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep. Other sleep disorders elderly adults may have:
Older adults who have sleep apnea will experience the start and stop of breathing several times while they are asleep. In fact, 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, with women experiencing more symptoms than men, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Long term sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, or memory loss and depression.
Snoring is a more serious disorder, which is caused by a partial blockage of the airway passage from the nose and mouth to the lungs. It happens when the tissues in these passages vibrate, leading to a harsh or hoarse sound. This condition has commonly happened among nearly 40% percent of American adults, especially elderly people and those who are overweight.
Restless leg syndrome
This disorder often happens during the night or when people are sitting for a long time. Elderly adults may experience a tingling, crawling feeling in one or both legs or pins and needles under the skin. The Minneapolis researcher reports that RLS affects about 10% of adults or up to 12 million people in the United States.
How Do Seniors Get Better Sleep?
From the above facts, we know that it is pretty common for elderly individuals do not get enough sleep, and it can really affect their mental and physical health, and mood. It is quite important to troubleshoot these issues.
Form good habit
Always wake up and go to sleep at the same time every night and decrease the length and frequency of daytime naps, especially in the afternoon. Ease your mind by listening to soothing music before you hit the hay. Taking a hot bath and drinking warm milk before bed will also promote your sleep.
Develop a healthy diet
Get the right amount of vitamins and nutrients. Cut back or avoid the intake of caffeinated beverages and foods, even during the daytime. Try to drink more water earlier in the day and limit liquids several hours before bedtime.
Maintain a regular exercise routine
Engaging in regular exercises, especially early morning exercise in sunlight will help you sleep better in the evening. If possible, try to get at least two hours of exposure to bright light every day. But try not to exercise within three hours of bedtime.
Create a cozy sleeping environment
Keep your bedroom at the right temperature. Sleep on the right memory foam mattress to ensure that your back is supported, that the temperature of your body is controlled, and that your comfort is a priority. Choose a comfortable and supportive memory foam pillow with appropriate height and softness. Meanwhile, cuddling a pillow or stuffed animal will make you feel safe and warm while sleeping.
Sleep is the core pillar of health for all ages. Try making changes in your sleep and lifestyle habits to get better sleep and keep your physical health and emotional well-being in your golden years. If you are unable to sleep well for more than 2 or 3 weeks, you should see your family doctor or a sleep disorder specialist.