September 24, 2021
Reading Time 6 min.

5 Effective Tips for Better Sleep in the Elderly

Sleep disorders are fairly common in the elderly. 

As we grow older, the amount and quality of sleep we get are heavily affected. 

There are many tips for better sleep out there. And today, I’m sharing how you can ensure better quality sleep for your aging parents. 

How does aging affect sleep? 

The number of seniors in the US is growing significantly over time. 

About 15% of the US population is over 65 years old. And it is estimated to reach up to 41% of the population by 2040

Sleep difficulties make up one of the top health concerns for seniors. And a huge part of this is because of aging. 

So how does aging affect the quality of sleep we get? 

As we grow older, our sleep patterns change. 

tips for better sleep babies

Infants need an average of 12 to 16 hours a night, including naps. Toddlers aged three to five years old need at least 11 to 13 hours. 

Six to twelve-year-olds must get at least 9 to 12 hours a day. And teenagers need at least 8 to 10 hours at night. 

The golden rule for adults is to have at least 7 hours of quality sleep. But in reality, we adults get an average of five to six hours at most. 

Sleep studies show that certain factors affect the quality of sleep we get, which is as follows: 

  • Sleep latency 
  • Nighttime awakening 
  • Fewer sleep cycles each night 
  • Decreased sleep efficiency 
  • Advancement of the circadian rhythm 
  • An increase in the frequency of napping during the day

Older people wake up an average of three to four times each night. Other causes of sleep disturbance come from anxiety, pain from chronic illnesses, and nocturia

One of the major causes of sleep problems is poor sleep habits. A shift in schedule can affect your body’s internal clock. 

Medications and other drugs can also make it harder to fall asleep. Some can even stimulate you to stay awake. 

Most elderly also suffer from stress, worry, and grief. 

Growing old has its positive and negative impacts. And one of them is losing a loved one. 

Friends, family, and even pets can cause deep grief that can disrupt our aging parents’ sleeping patterns. 

Read more about the effects of aging on sleep here

Common sleep disorders in seniors 

tips for better sleep: common sleeping disorders

Our quality of sleep declines as we age. 

Older people tend to experience a shorter time in deep, restorative sleep. 

Aging also impairs one’s circadian clock and its ability to reset itself when exposed to light. 

This means our natural cues triggering our internal biological rhythms fails to synchronize with the Earth’s seasonal cycles. 

Here are some of the most common sleep disruptors and disorders in the elderly. 

  1. Insomnia and other sleep disorders 

Sleep disorders include trouble falling or staying asleep. It can also mean falling asleep at the wrong time, and even abnormal behaviors during sleep. 

Cases like insomnia, sleep apnea, and REM behavior disorders are also linked to conditions like depression and anxiety. 

Sleep apnea has also been connected with nighttime falls. It can also lower an elderly’s quality of life and increase the chances of accidents. 

  1. Neurodegenerative disorders 

Sleep disorders are also often related to cerebral degenerative disorders. These may be caused by symptoms of the neurological disease. It may also result from damage to the brain centers controlling sleep. 

Poor sleep can also lead to the progression of these neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Dementia. 

  1. Medication and other substances 

Substances like alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco have a huge impact on our sleep quality.

Some may say that a glass of wine or a cup of coffee can help them sleep better. But truth is, these substances can cause lighter, fragmented sleep. 

Certain medications like alpha-blockers, corticosteroids, and statins can also cause sleep problems. And most of these are found in our aging parents’ medicine cabinets. 

So when do you know if your aging parents need help? How are sleep disorders diagnosed?

The key is to ask your doctor for help. 

Doctors will ask about their symptoms and do a physical exam to look for any underlying conditions. 

They may also ask you and your parents to have a sleep diary to learn more about sleeping patterns. 

Seniors will also go through a sleep study. Here technicians place sensors to measure body movement, breathing, heart rate, brain activity, and other sleeping noises. 

Nonpharmaceutical treatments like behavioral therapy can also be available as an option. It’s a great alternative for those who are already taking too many medications. 

Check out this research on behavioral therapy and how it helps sleep disorders. 

5 Tips for Better Sleep in the Elderly 

tips for better sleep: exercise

We should be paying more attention to our aging parents’ sleep quality.

To ensure that your elders are getting the right amount of sleep, here are the best sleeping tips you can do. 

  1. Exercise 

Physical activities and staying active can be a challenge. But it can help create a healthier, more restful sleep in seniors. 

Studies show that those who did exercise at least 150 minutes a week felt more alert during the day. They also had significantly better at night. 

But take care not to exercise too close to bedtime. Late-day workouts can leave you stimulated, keeping you awake longer. 

  1. Eat a balanced diet 

A well-balanced diet can lead to weight loss and cut down risks of snoring, sleep apnea, and insomnia. 

The timing of your meals also matter. Eat heavier food earlier in the morning and lighter ones at night. 

eat better to sleep better

Some of the best food to take for better sleep are oats, cherries, poultry, and dairy products.

Check out more of these sleep-inducing food items here. 

  1. Avoid blue light before bed 

Our eyes aren’t so good at blocking the blue light. So most of it passes straight to your brain keeping it alert and awake. 

This causes you to take longer to fall asleep. 

Blue light sources include smartphones, tablets, televisions, and even fluorescent light bulbs. 

So how do you manage blue light sources? 

You can get blue-light-blocking glasses online for your parents. You can also make sure to limit device usage at least two to three hours before bedtime.   

  1. Make sure that they have conducive sleep environments 

Make the bedroom an enticing place for sleep. 

Fluff the bed and make sure it’s comfortable. Make it quiet, dark, and cool. 
Get rid of trip hazards and items that can cause slips and falls. 

Ensure paths are adequately lit. You can also consider motion sensors or remote-controlled night lights in hallways to help seniors find their way to the bathroom. 

Check out my best tips for a safer home for the elderly. 

  1. Create sleep routines 

One of the most effective tips for better sleep is to create a bedtime routine. 

Studies show that elders who had sleep routines took less time to fall asleep. They also have higher sleep efficiency and sleep quality. 

These can include warm baths, soothing music, and even nighttime skincare routines. 

Doing these tasks can act as a trigger in our brain telling it to relax and get ready to sleep. 

Some even use ambient music and black screens to encourage sleep. 

Here are some examples of Youtube channels with soothing sounds and black screens. 

Conclusion 

Growing older can affect our sleep quality. But there are helpful tips on how to sleep better and faster than you can integrate into your loved one’s schedule. 

Try out these tips for better sleep and let us know how they helped you and your aging parents. 

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That's all for today.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!

Winn

Articles of Interest:

  1. AGE IN PLACE DESIGN GUIDELINES MADE ACHIEVABLE FOR THE ELDERLY
  2. HOW ELDERLY HOME CARE MAKES AGING IN PLACE POSSIBLE FOR SENIORS
  3. AT HOME CARE FOR THE ELDERLY: HOW TO CARE FOR LOW INCOME SENIORS
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