For older adults, there could be an endless stream of things preventing optimal sleep at night. As we age it is even more important to consider the health benefits of maintaining healthy sleep patterns.
Lack of sleep has been linked to decreased insulin sensitivity, decreased glucose tolerance, and increased hunger and appetite. Poor sleep is also associated with cognitive difficulties. At an age where memory and cognitive function are slowing down, it is important to control the things within our abilities—and sleep is one thing we can control! Here are five tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
Exercise during the day to sleep better at night
Did you know that the benefits of working out include improved sleep quality? Many studies have suggested that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow-wave sleep we get.
Exercise is possible even if physical limitations prevent you from hitting the gym. Low-impact aerobic activities well-suited for older adults include:
- Seated exercises
- Dumbbell strength training
- Light yoga
Endorphins released into your body during heightened physical activity increase your energy levels – making it best to work out in the morning or afternoon. When you are expelling this energy earlier in the day, you will fall asleep easier at night.
Before starting any new training or workout regiment, check with your doctor for the suggested amount of activity to match your current physical abilities.
Limit daytime naps
Most older adults regularly take at least one mid-day nap. While it is helpful to rest throughout the day, it’s best to limit afternoon snoozing to achieve adequate sleep at night. For a better night’s rest, try out these rules for your daily naps:
- Limit naps to approximately 30 minutes.
- Turn off your electronics during nap time.
- Be sure to achieve total darkness before laying down to nap.
- End your nap at least 5 hours before bedtime.
- Stick to only one nap per day.
Studies have shown that the benefits of napping are greater if you’re taking shorter naps, lasting only 30 minutes or less. Spending an hour or longer resting during the day, or taking multiple naps, can confuse your internal clock – making it harder to fall asleep at bedtime.
Reduce stress throughout the day
While grocery shopping and doing the dishes used to be simple tasks, these things can be more difficult as we age. Stress can add up quickly when your daily routine faces challenges such as time spent standing and increased difficulties in driving. If you have family close by, they can be quite helpful in relieving these responsibilities. For additional assistance to lighten your load, check out these suggestions and reduce your daily stress:
- Hire a housekeeping service.
- Order groceries through delivery apps such as Shipt or Amazon Fresh.
- Find a massage therapist or personal trainer that does in-home appointments.
- Utilize a dog walking service.
- Download a ride-sharing app such as Uber or Lyft to reduce driving.
Sometimes reaching out for help is the best way to reduce stress. If you are looking for support
to help relieve everyday tasks and increase the quality of life for you or your loved one, it may be time to consider PACE. The PACE program allows older adults to maintain independence at home while receiving additional support.
Create a bedroom space that encourages better sleep
Your bedroom environment can affect your ability to get good sleep. Things like temperature, lighting, and external noises can have impact your sleep patterns. Follow these tips for the ideal bedroom set-up to welcome a better night’s sleep:
- Choose calming paint colors.
- Keep a cool, yet comfortable temperature.
- Reduce the clutter in your bedroom.
- Hang blackout curtains over windows.
- Upgrade your mattress and bedding.
- Keep electronics with lights (clocks, cable boxes) covered at night.
- Decorate with fresh plants.
A lack of sleep can speed up aging and as we get older it becomes harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. With added oxygen from fresh plants, a pitch-black room, and the perfect temperature setting, you will remain asleep longer with less interruption throughout the night.
Stick to a bedtime routine
Understanding how your body is affected by sleep patterns will help you fall asleep faster and help you get better sleep at night. Your body has an internal clock affecting your brain, body, and hormones called your circadian rhythm. Keeping a consistent routine will help your circadian rhythm create a natural alarm telling you when it is time to sleep or wake. Follow these steps to ensure you are keeping an effective bedtime ritual that supports a healthy circadian rhythm.
- Reduce blue light exposure leading up to bedtime (phones, televisions).
- Eat dinner at the same time every night.
- Eliminate unhealthy snacking in the evening.
- If you shower before bed, make sure it is around the same time daily.
- Take your vitamins or melatonin at the same time each evening.
- Wear a sleep mask to reduce light exposure.
- Use ear plugs for noise reduction.
- Go to bed at the same time each night.
- Wake up at the same time each morning.
Sleep is essential to your health. With these tips, you can start implementing habits and routines to help you sleep better as you age. For more health tips, our blog is a great resource for older adults and their families to find advice on health and aging.