Getting a good night's sleep is essential for people of all ages. However, children and older adults require the most sleep of all age ranges, which is about seven to nine hours per night, according to the National Institutes of Health.
However, many seniors fail to get this recommended amount of rest due to problems falling asleep and waking up throughout the night. Understanding why these problems frequently occur and how to reduce the effect they have on your sleep quality is important to keeping your overall well-being in check.
Why is sleep essential to your health?
Sleep does much more than ensure you aren't tired and can remain alert throughout the day. Helpguide.org explained that getting enough rest each night is crucial to memory formation, concentration and the body's ability to repair cell damage. It also plays a large role in keeping your immune system healthy and warding off diseases. This is particularly essential for seniors, as their immune systems become weaker and more vulnerable to sickness with age.
Older adults who don't get enough sleep each night are more susceptible to a number of health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and memory problems. They may also become more sensitive to pain and experience an increased risk of falls, according to Helpguide.org. Therefore, it's important that you speak to your doctor if you've been having a difficult time getting to sleep on a regular basis.
How does sleep quality change with age?
The National Sleep Foundation noted that it's common for seniors to experience a harder time drifting off at night and falling into a deep sleep. One reason for this is the medications that older adults take. This is why letting your doctor know you're having a hard time sleeping is important, as he may be able to recommend a new prescription that's less likely to interfere with your rest.
Another cause is a change in the circadian rhythms that coordinate the timing of when the body is ready for sleep. As a result, seniors may become more tired earlier in the night and wake up earlier in the morning, a pattern called sleep phase syndrome. While the cause of these circadian rhythm changes is still unknown, research has shown that it may have to do with light exposure and medications, noted the NSF.
Are there tricks to enhancing sleep quality?
Not all seniors experience sleep problems, but it's always a good idea to have a few tricks up your sleeve if you ever find yourself counting sheep. One of the most effective strategies to get a good night's rest is familiarizing yourself with the common causes of insomnia and poor sleep quality.
"Physical inactivity can prevent your body from feeling tired."
Bad sleep habits, such as trying to get your rest with the television on or eating a lot before going to bed, can make getting some shut-eye a challenge. Make sure your sleep environment is quiet with minimal light so your internal clock knows it's time to hit the hay. Eating or consuming alcohol before bed can cause issues like heartburn and make relaxation difficult. Physical inactivity can also prevent your body from feeling tired when it should, especially if you maintain a sedentary lifestyle. Try to get in the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week to promote sleep.
Severe stress and painful medical conditions are common temporary causes of poor sleep quality. Talk to your doctor if you feel that any of these factors are having an impact on your sleep.
Once you know what may be causing your sleeplessness, try using a few popular tricks that could help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep throughout the night. The NSF recommended maintaining a bedtime ritual, such as reading a certain number of pages in your book with a cup of tea. Routines like these reduce anxiety and trigger relaxation. If you find that you can't fall asleep or that you wake up in the middle of the night, it's often better to do something similar that will help you relax than try to convince your body to go to sleep.
The mattress and pillow you use also contribute to how well you're able to sleep. If you've had your mattress for more than 10 years, it's time to consider investing in a new one that's going to provide the comfort and support you need to snooze soundly. If you're sensitive to allergens, you may want to look into memory foam products, as they're allergen resistant.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living