Aging can take a toll on our ability to sleep. Our body’s natural circadian rhythm, or sleep and wake cycle, changes as we age, and we have to adjust a few of our habits to make sure we’re still sleeping well every night. Seniors often report problems sleeping during the night, and wake up feeling tired every morning.
The Importance of Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for your overall health and wellbeing. You may not notice the effects of one sleepless night, but if you’ve had a week or a month of sleeping poorly, you’ll start to experience the negative effects of not sleeping. You’ll struggle to stay focused on tasks, and think through problems far slower than usual. Poor sleep will leave you feeling forgetful, and manifest in memory problems. In your interactions with family and friends you’ll be more irritable and more likely to snap or respond inappropriately. You will feel stressed and depressed, and you’ll struggle to stay alert.
A long-term lack of sleep will make you more prone to falls and accidents, and increase your chances of developing chronic health concerns like cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and diabetes.
How Aging Affects Sleep
It’s a common myth that seniors don’t need as much sleep, but just like younger adults, older adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. The difference in sleep cycles is that seniors tend to go to bed a bit earlier and get up earlier.
One of the ways aging affects sleep is due to some of the aches and pains that many seniors experience. You may feel sick, or have pain from arthritis or other joint problems. Seniors often take a longer time to fall asleep, and wake up more often during the night. They often wake up feeling tired, and experience drowsiness during the day.
Among seniors, the inability to sleep can become a habit, and you may stress about being able to fall asleep even before you climb into bed for the night. When you do get into bed, you feel agitated, and worrying about sleeping makes it even harder to fall asleep.
Healthy Sleeping Habits
Healthy sleeping habits will help you get the sleep that you need, even as you age. One of the best tips for better sleep is to follow a consistent and regular sleeping and waking schedule. This will help your circadian rhythm produce more melatonin before bed. Melatonin is the natural hormone your body produces before bed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. A consistent waking schedule will signal to your body to stop producing melatonin as the morning approaches, and you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead. For better sleep, maintain this schedule even on weekends.
Another tip is to develop a consistent bedtime routine. This is another way to signal to your body that it’s time to rest, and it’s also a chance for you to relax and wind down before bed. You can read a book, practice some breathing exercises, listen to music, or even take a relaxing bath. Avoid watching TV right before bed, or spending a long time on your computer or phone since the blue light will keep you awake.
Finally, set your bedroom temperature a bit cooler during the night. You can snuggle up under the covers, and won’t wake up feeling sweaty or uncomfortable in the middle of the night.
Seniors are more prone to developing sleep apnea than younger adults. Sleep apnea is a condition that affects the muscles in the throat. As you sleep, these muscles relax too much, and block your airway. You’ll start to snore, or even wake up with a feeling of breathlessness. Your brain will wake you up repeatedly to tighten the muscles in your throat and start the airflow, and even though you may not realize that you’ve woken up repeatedly through the night, you will wake up feeling tired and sleep deprived.
Sound Sleep Medical
Do you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Do you struggle with sleep apnea? Whatever the case may be, visit us at Sound Sleep Medical for a sleep assessment, and learn ways to get a better night’s sleep regardless of your age.