For many of us, a good night’s sleep is tough to come by. This is especially true as we grow older. Estimates are that as much as 30% of the general population and up to 50% of seniors battle insomnia. The reasons why vary from undiagnosed sleep apnea to heart disease, anxiety, and restless legs syndrome.
Aging often brings about a shift in the body’s natural circadian rhythm. That’s another reason many older adults may have trouble falling or staying asleep. Seniors often just give up and accept that quality sleep isn’t possible. Unfortunately, chronic insomnia is linked to serious health issues:
Higher incidence of falls
Unintended weight gain or loss
Higher rates of diabetes
Increased risk for cardiac disease
Change in disposition
On the other hand, getting quality sleep on a regular basis offers numerous benefits.
How Quality Sleep Improves Well-Being
Here are some of the reasons it’s important to make quality sleep a priority:
Lower risk for some diseases: Because a lack of good sleep is linked to a variety of health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, getting quality rest each night may be able to cut your risk.
Stronger immune system: Quality sleep boosts the immune system helping the body fight off viruses and infections. It’s especially important to sleep well during cold and flu season or during times of stress.
Greater self-control: When you are sleep-deprived, you are more likely to make unhealthy lifestyle choices. Comfort foods that are usually high in calories and fat sound more appealing. Finding the motivation to exercise when you are tired is also tough. By contrast, when you are well-rested, you are more likely to make better decisions.
Refresh the mind and body: Sleep gives your mind and body an opportunity to rest and restore. That helps with everything from minimizing inflammation to preventing digestive problems.
Increased energy: While this may be obvious, it is still worth pointing out. Sleeping well on a regular basis you more energy. It helps you stay active and engaged with life, which further enhances how positive you feel.
Steps to Sleep Better at Night
If you are part of the 50% of older adults who sleep alludes, these suggestions might be useful:
Get regular exercise: A sedentary lifestyle and a lack of physical activity can contribute to poor sleep. Walking, chair yoga, swimming, cycling, and gardening are all good choices for seniors.
Avoid caffeine: Sleep deprivation and caffeinating to compensate are an unhealthy combination. The more tired you are, the more likely you are to use caffeine to keep you going. While it can provide a temporary boost, caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Skip alcohol: People often think a glass of wine in the evening can relax the body leading to better sleep. The reality is that alcohol disrupts the body’s melatonin production. This can impede your sleep/wake cycle, while also causing snoring and sleep apnea to worsen. If you don’t want to skip alcohol altogether, try to avoid consuming it in the evening.
Develop a sleep routine: Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Turn off the television and electronic devices at least one hour before heading to the bedroom. Also, keep the thermostat in your bedroom lower. Experts say 60 to 68 degrees is optimum. If the room has an exterior lighting source nearby that prevents it from getting dark, invest in blackout curtains. Finally, consider using a white noise machine or a fan if you have trouble sleeping in a room that’s too quiet.
Bookmark the Sunrise Resource Library
To stay updated on the latest news about healthy aging, caregiving, and senior living, we encourage you to bookmark the Sunrise Resource Library. We publish new articles throughout the month on topics ranging from retirement hobbies to finding a financial planner.