Aging and Sleep Patterns
As your your body ages, so do your sleeping patterns. Seniors often find that they have trouble in getting used to the changes in their sleeping patterns. One of the reasons for these changes has to do with the body producing lower levels of growth hormone in the elderly, which lessens deeper sleep. Another reason has to do with lower levels of melatonin. Lower melatonin levels quite often means interrupted sleep. But, with these changes there are nevertheless ways that a senior citizen can deal with them and learn to still get quality and adequate amounts of sleep.
Overcoming Sleep Deprivation
During the later years of ones life it’s quite common to get sleepy earlier and go to bed earlier in the evening and wake up earlier, and even have your sleep interrupted by waking up several times per night. This shouldn’t be alarming at all, and it can be helped by getting in a nap or two during the daytime. The naps don’t need to be for hours at a time, either. They can be “power naps”, lasting between 15 and 45 minutes, just enough to freshen things up a little bit. If a senior can’t get the recommended 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night, it is still important to try to get some of that during the day. One of the repercussions or side effects of sleep deprivation in the elderly is poor memory at the least detrimental end of the spectrum, and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke at the more serious side of the spectrum.
Adequate Exercise and Staying Active
Exercise shouldn’t be abandoned just because of age. The elderly should still keep active. Aerobic activity such as swimming, walking, bicycling, and playing with the grandchildren are all great activities for seniors to be engaged in. Of course, the senior should never go against what their doctor recommends, or risk overextending themselves.
Being socially active by volunteering in the community can help keep lighter moods and also help your body at the same time. When the mind and body are engaged for the most part of the day, it is much easier to get to sleep at night.
Ridding Worry and Lessening Stress
If worry or stress is keeping a senior from being able to get adequate rest, it is important to have someone to talk to, and journaling is also a good way to constructively vent frustrations to get them out of the system to be able to relax the mind before bedtime. Calming music before bedtime that is set to a timer might also be a good idea to help a senior into a peaceful mode that readies for sleep.
Food and Drink Before Sleep
Light food and drink that helps induce sleepiness can be a good thing for the elderly. The important thing is not to eat any heavy or rich foods before bed, as these types of foods will have the opposite effect and actually inhibit sleep, overburdening the digestive system. Drinking things like warm milk or an herbal tea before bed is a good idea, as are very light foods such as crackers or yogurt just to make sure the senior isn’t going to be on an empty stomach. Certainly, things like alcohol and caffeine should be avoided before sleep.
The Sleep Surface
Don’t forget that an old, worn-out mattress can also inhibit good quality sleep for seniors. Many seniors suffer from pain syndromes such as arthritis, or generalized neck, shoulder, back, or hip pain. A nice new mattress can go a long way to giving a senior plenty of comfort in bed with the accompanying adequate support. Latex or memory foam are both great to help alleviate pressure points and help the senior to wake up pain-free.
Just because someone is in their later years, doesn’t mean he or she must give up on getting good quality sleep!
Author Bio: +Michelle Gordon is a sleep expert who researches and writes about sleep and health, and is an online publisher for the latex mattress specialist www.Latexmattress.org.