While many people assume that seniors require less sleep than younger people, this is not the case. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people aged 61 and over should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
That said, as we get older, a number of health changes result in aging adults having more difficulty getting a good night’s rest.
Common Sleep Changes in Older Adults
As you get older, you may notice yourself having a harder time falling asleep. Many seniors, even those in good health, often report waking up throughout the night and feeling fatigued during the day.
Some other common sleep changes include:
Waking up in the middle of the night
Tossing and turning, being unable to fall back asleep
Feeling irritated and fatigued from lack of sleep
Some of these changes may be a result of fluctuations in hormones and bodily chemicals. Alternatively, they may be related to caffeine consumption or a chronic condition like diabetes. The difficult part, however, is determining which factors are contributing to restless nights.
Importance of Sleep and Health
Not getting an adequate amount of sleep can greatly impact your health. Failure to obtain proper sleep over extended periods of time may cause:
Sleepiness during the day
Irritability, anxiety, and depression
Inability to focus on daily tasks
Cardiovascular health problems
How Seniors Can Obtain Better Sleep
If you’re like many older adults that struggle to get better sleep, you’re not alone. We’ve compiled a list of strategies to help you gain a better night’s sleep.
Avoid electronic devices: Many of us struggle to take our eyes off our electronic devices. Staring at your phone or watching TV right before bed can impact your ability to drift off into sleep. Try to put your electronic devices in a separate room or set a timer so you can put all your devices away before going to sleep.
Daily exercise: Even getting just 30 minutes of daily exercise can reduce stress and help you get a better night’s sleep.
Move to a different room: If you haven’t been able to sleep after half an hour or more, it’s time to consider changing your environment. Try moving into a different room and focusing on a monotonous activity, like counting sheep.
Avoid napping during the day: Napping can disrupt our natural sleep cycle and cause you to feel wide awake at night. If possible, avoid napping for long periods of time. If you really need to nap during the day, consider a quick 10-minute nap.
Reduce or avoid caffeine intake: Avoid caffeinated drinks if you’re a light sleeper. If you rely on coffee or other caffeinated beverages, it’s best to stop drinking them before the afternoon.
Keep your bedtime schedule consistent: Be consistent, and try to go to sleep at roughly the same time each night.
When You Should See a Doctor
If sleep deprivation or insomnia persists, this might be a sign of something more serious. In this case, we recommend consulting with your doctor. You may have sleep apnea, hormonal disorders, or other conditions that may require more than sleep hygiene to fix.
Although getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging, there are plenty of ways to increase your odds of obtaining it. Start by recording your sleeping habits and making lifestyle changes as needed. This may include reducing your caffeine consumption, or setting up a physical alarm instead of using your smartphone to wake you up. You can also incorporate more movement and daily exercise into your lifestyle and meditate to help you relax.
You might also consider upgrading your mattress. For more information, check out our helpful guides below.
Seniors can improve their sleep with daily exercise, increasing their water intake, and reducing screen time.
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here