Sleep is an important part of maintaining good physical and mental health throughout our entire lives, but our needs and sleeping habits do change as we age. While a newborn baby needs between 14 and 17 hours of sleep each day, older adults only need around 7-8 hours per night. However, many seniors find it difficult to get this much sleep and often experience disrupted sleep.
What causes seniors’ sleep problems?
Changes to our bodies as we age can make it more difficult to get a solid night’s sleep. One of the main culprits is a weaker bladder. Seniors are more likely to wake up in the night needing to use the bathroom, perhaps even multiple times per night. This can be very disruptive to our sleep patterns, especially for those who find it difficult to get back to sleep after waking up.
Pain can also be an issue. Seniors with arthritis or a chronic pain disorder may find that the pain keeps them up at night. It could also be that certain medications they are taking can cause insomnia or a restless night’s sleep. Additionally, seniors can be more prone to conditions like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, which both lead to disrupted or poor-quality sleep.
Tips for a better night’s sleep for seniors
If you or a senior family member are having trouble sleeping, then it’s advisable to see a doctor about this problem. If there are any underlying health issues leading to your sleep problems, then they should be able to diagnose and, hopefully, treat these. You should also check any medication you are taking to see if sleep problems are listed as a side effect. If you mention your problems to a doctor, they may be able to recommend an alternative medication.
Beyond seeing a doctor, advice for getting a better night’s sleep in your senior years is much the same as it is at any point in your life:
- Have a nighttime routine – It’s not just children who should have a bedtime. Setting yourself a nighttime routine and going to bed and waking up at the same times every day helps you get to sleep more easily.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol – If you drink coffee too late in the day, you’re likely to find it harder to fall asleep. Try to avoid caffeine after a certain time, e.g. 2pm. Alcohol can also make it more difficult to fall asleep and can disrupt to quality of your sleep.
- Don’t nap too late – If you do need to nap during the day, then late morning or early afternoon is the best time. Later than this, and you may find it difficult to sleep at night.
- Prepare your bedroom – Your sleep environment may also be causing problems. Make sure your bedroom isn’t too hot, too cold, too bright, or too noisy.
If you need support caring for a senior family member, then contact Bermuda Village to find out more about our assisted and independent living facilities.