Sleep is incredibly important for physical and mental functioning and is just as important for seniors as it is for younger people. Sleeping is when the body regenerates and recharges itself and a lack of sleep leaves it susceptible to fatigue, along with a variety of different health problems. Sleep patterns change as people age, and seniors do seem to require less sleep than younger people (sleeping, on average, 7.5 hours per night). However, seniors are also highly vulnerable to insomnia for a wide range of reasons, which is why it is vitally important for caregivers to keep track of seniors’ sleeping patterns, as it could be an indication of a larger problem.
There are a number of things that both seniors and their caregivers can do to improve not only the ability to sleep, but also the quality of sleep as well.
- Don’t avoid the sun. While excessive sunshine can increase one’s risk of skin cancer and other issues; in moderation, sunlight is actually very good for seniors. Not only does sunlight help the body to produce vitamin D, which promotes strong bones, it also spurns the production of melatonin. This hormone helps aid in the ability to get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Have the senior get a checkup. It is important to rule out any potential medical problems that could be responsible for an inability or difficulty in sleeping. Caregivers for seniors should be sensitive to changes in patient’s sleep patterns as these could be signs of an underlying health problem. The doctor can also administer sleep aids if deemed necessary.
- Perform a medication analysis. Seniors are much more likely to be on a variety of different medications to manage their different health problems. Certain medications have side effects that can make it difficult for the senior to sleep. Something as simple as changing the time of day that the medication is administered could help reduce the seniors’ problems with sleeping.
- Create an environment conducive to sleep. It is best for seniors to avoid participating in activities in the room they sleep in. It is important that they associate their bedroom with sleep and nothing else, as this will reduce stimulation in the brain that makes sleep more difficult. The room itself should be kept dark and cool, as this is the ideal environment for healthy sleeping.
- Use proper napping tactics. Control napping so that it does not interfere with the ability to get a good night’s sleep, but provides seniors with the rest they need. Naps should take place in a comfortable environment such as the bedroom. They should take place in the late morning or early afternoon so as to not ruin their normal sleeping schedule. And finally, naps should be short, limited to 15-45 minutes.
- Minimize the intake of liquid in the hours leading up to bedtime. Seniors are known for needing to go to the bathroom far more often than younger people and will often wake during the night – sometimes a number of times – in order to go to the bathroom. This can be reduced or avoided by limiting their intake of liquids in the couple of hours leading to bedtime. It is also advised that caffeine should not be consumed after early afternoon and alcohol near bedtime is also to be avoided.
- Create a bedtime routine. It is important that the body has time to wind down and is not forced to try to go from activity to rest in short order. Helping the senior create a bedtime routine – usually about a half hour long – is perfect as that mentally sends the signal that it is time to go to sleep. Once this pattern becomes routine, it should be easier for the senior to get to sleep.
Carefect homecare services provide the highest quality, affordable in-home care services for seniors. Our trained caregivers are compassionate and understand the importance of a good night’s sleep to the overall health of seniors. Our homecare specialists can help seniors create a better sleeping environment, promote safe exercise, manage diet, as well as manage sleep aids to help seniors get the rest they need. We promote a safe and healthy environment that provides seniors the tools they need to get the most out of the rest of their lives.