Insomnia is a common ailment in seniors and affects almost 50% of people over the age of 60, according to the National Institute of Health.
Our sleeping patterns change when we get older. We often get tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning, which is normal. It is not normal, though, if our sleep is often disturbed and we wake up tired.
Signs of Insomnia Problems in Seniors
Some signs of insomnia are obvious, like rolling around in bed waiting for sleep to set in. Other signs are more disguised and may also be a sign of other problems. Here’s a list of insomnia symptoms to look out for. The presence of one or more of these symptoms may mean insomnia is the culprit:
Taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, even when feeling tired
Trouble getting back to sleep if woken up in the middle of the night
Waking up not feeling refreshed
Feeling sleepy and irritable during the day
Relying on sleeping pills to fall asleep
Trouble controlling emotions
The Importance of a Restful Sleep
Adults, including seniors, need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. It’s not only the amount of time that is important but the quality of sleep as well.
A good night’s rest helps us to concentrate better, helps with memory formation, refreshes our immune system, and allows our bodies to repair cell damage caused during the day.
Not getting enough quality sleep can have some adverse effects on our physical and mental health, such as:
Attention and memory problems
Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
Increased risk of weight problems and diabetes
Increased risk of breast cancer in women
How to Get a Good Night’s Rest
As home caregivers, we’ve helped many seniors combat insomnia. But every person is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s advisable for older adults suffering from insomnia to always consult with a doctor first before trying new treatments.
Here are some ideas seniors and home caregivers can try to get a good night’s rest:
Following a regular sleep schedule by going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time each morning.
Bedtime rituals tell the body that it is time to wind down and to get ready for sleep. Actions like taking a warm bath, playing calming music, reading, meditating, and doing breathing exercises are ideas for winding down.
Melatonin is a hormone in our bodies that takes effect when it gets dark to make us sleepy. Melatonin levels can be boosted by dimming lights, avoiding television and computer screens for an hour before bedtime, and making sure the bedroom is completely dark while sleeping.
Limiting caffeinated drinks late in the day, such as coffee, tea, and soda.
Avoiding alcohol before bedtime. Although alcohol initially makes us sleepy, it disrupts our sleep later at night.
Avoiding big meals before bedtime. Ideally, dinner should be served at least three hours before bedtime.
Exercising regularly. A study by the Northwestern University found that aerobic exercises improve the quality and duration of sleep in seniors with insomnia. Great activities to try include swimming, dancing, walking, and cycling, and should ideally be done earlier in the day, or at least four hours before bedtime.
Reducing stress. Stress is often one of the main reasons why we struggle to fall asleep. Stress management ideas include playing calm music, reading, taking a relaxing bath, getting a massage, talking to a trusted friend about what bothers us, and putting our worries on hold until the next day.
Engaging in social activities, including spending time with family and friends, signing up for voluntary work, and joining a hobby group.
Increasing exposure to Vitamin D. Studies show that our bodies need at least two hours of sunlight during the day to produce enough melatonin at night. Ideas include opening the curtains in the morning, drinking morning coffee on the patio, or going for a walk outside.
Avoiding or limiting daytime naps.
Our experienced home caregivers can help seniors with insomnia get into a regular daily routine to help combat insomnia and sleep better at night. If you’re interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.