The body’s internal clock is what signals to us that it’s either time to wake or time to sleep. However, as we age, our bodies go through hormonal and other natural changes that have a direct affect on the internal clock. We oftentimes hear about older adults, seniors in particular, being dissatisfied with their sleep. This includes fragmentation of sleep, the inability to settle down to rest and a lack of feeling relaxed and refreshed upon waking.
In addition to being a natural part of aging, there are a variety of factors that affect the ability to get restful sleep. Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, enlarged prostate, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are just several of many health conditions that can challenge sleep. Medications for these types of diseases and conditions are major contributors to sleep difficulty as well. Life changes like loss of a loved one, disability, and retirement play a role, too.
It’s important to talk with your doctor about health conditions, medications, lifestyle habits and major life-changing events that could be adversely affecting sleep cycles. There are several ways seniors can improve sleep on their own with a few tips.
- Engage in activities that improve mood. This includes getting out of the house and socializing with others in the community.
- Get the appropriate amount of physical activity. Exercise is known to release endorphins to boost your mood and lessen anxiety and stress.
- Increase exposure to sunlight. Natural light regulates melatonin which directly affects sleep-wake cycles. Try to avoid artificial light, but when necessary use low wattage bulbs.
- If you read at night, don’t use an electronic device like a Kindle or tablet that has a backlight.
- Keep the bedroom cool, comfortable and quiet. Noise, heat and light can challenge sleep.
- Move bedroom clocks out of eyesight and earshot. A person with sleeping troubles will oftentimes watch the clock, or let the tick-tock distract them from rest. Don’t allow yourself the opportunity.
- Establish a bedtime routine. Whether it’s taking a bath, reading for 30 minutes, or listening to music, a regular schedule can make restful sleep come more naturally.
- Control eating and drinking before bed. Limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine intake. Reduce the use of sleeping pills unless in certain circumstances, but do not depend on them for regular use.