Getting a good night’s sleep is not always an easy endeavor and unfortunately, as we age it often becomes even more difficult. Watching a parent or loved one struggle with maintaining a healthy sleep cycle can be troubling, and if you live with this person it can be just as exhausting for you to witness it as it is for them to experience it. Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep are two fairly common problems, but they may also indicate that something else is going on. Understanding the reasons why this can happen, along with ways in which it can be prevented can be helpful:
The reasons for sleep deprivation vary; some are obvious, and some are not.
- Too Much Downtime. Seniors taking naps and spending their retirement days in relaxation is what we want for our loved ones. However, not getting enough physical activity can affect their sleeping patterns and hinder the quality of their sleep.
- Illness Related Aches and Pains. Whether its aches from arthritis or torment from restless leg syndrome these distractions can prevent seniors from sleeping well.
- Stress. Seniors are coming to terms with aging, which can be a stressful time. In addition to this, some are adjusting to life in senior living which can cause anxiety.
- Medication Side Effects. Fighting off illness often requires certain prescriptions and these medications can have substantial side effects, including interrupted sleep cycles.
Here is a list of ways to help your loved one fall asleep:
- Encourage them to create and stick to a bedtime ritual. For some people this includes a warm bath followed by some light reading. Whatever the ritual is, it should be calming and practiced every night.
- Provide them with a book on meditation; if they are open to learning how to breathe deeply and center their minds before bed this may help them fall asleep, especially those who suffer from painful ailments.
- Remind them to limit their daily napping and to stay as active as they can. If, by the end of the day, their body is tired, it’s much more probable that they’ll enjoy a deep sleep.
- If possible, suggest that they keep a journal and write down all their concerns and worries. It will help in legitimizing their feelings but also enable them to move beyond them.
- Help them arrange their room so that it’s conducive to sleeping. Take down bright or intensely patterned paintings, get rid of clutter and confirm that the room can darken at night, allowing for very little light to get through.
- Avoid food and drink with excess simple sugars before bed. Especially things like alcohol, which may seem relaxing, but oftentimes can cause interrupted or fitful sleep.
These are just a few of the many ways to alleviate sleep issues in seniors. Keep in mind that The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep each night.