A good night’s sleep is often hard to come by. This may be especially true for kupuna. According to the National Institute of Health, insomnia affects nearly 50 percent of adults 60 years and older.
It’s a common misconception that our sleep needs decline as we grow older. Although natural sleep patterns change as we age, shifting our internal clock to an earlier sleep cycle, the amount of sleep required for healthy living remains the same. Research shows that all adults, whether they’re 18 or 88 years old, require seven to nine hours of consistent sleep per night.
Sound sleep is important
As we age, our physical and mental states change and we become more susceptible to disease and injury. When our minds and bodies are well rested, we feel and act at our best. Poor sleep quality doesn’t just make you feel tired. Sustained sleep deprivation caused by days or months of chronic sleep loss has many negative health effects, such as weakened immunity, memory loss, depression and an increased risk of accidents or falls.
Not all sleep is created equal. Seniors spend less time in deep sleep, which is essential in cell repair. Not getting enough deep sleep can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems and certain types of cancers.
Causes of senior insomnia
The prevalence of sleep disorders tends to increase with age. There are two types of insomnia: Sleep onset insomnia (difficulty with falling asleep) and sleep maintenance insomnia (inability to remain asleep). Identifying the causes of your insomnia will help you find solutions.
For many seniors, sleep problems arise due to age-related symptoms, including frequent urination or pain and physical discomfort from arthritis. Other common causes are sleep apnea, anxiety or stress, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, consumption of stimulants (like caffeine) or alcohol, and medications.
Long daytime naps can also disrupt a good night’s sleep.
Solutions for better sleep
If waking during the night is a common occurrence, adjusting your daily routine may help. Keeping a sleep journal can offer both you and your physician vital clues as to what could perpetuate poor sleep habits. Write down what time you went to bed and woke up, what you consumed before bed and any physical or emotional feelings during the night.
Consult your doctor about your medications as many can affect sleep. Most medications seniors take are necessary, so ask your doctor about altering the timing or dosage of the medication to encourage better rest.
As bedtime nears, steer clear of exercise, eating large meals or rich foods and avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.
Stop drinking liquids an hour or more before you’re ready to sleep to lessen nighttime bathroom trips. Turn off the TV and put down your mobile devices at least an hour before bed.
Get into a routine that helps you feel sleepy, such as taking a warm shower, reading a book, listening to calming music or meditating.
Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom that encourages sleep. Invest in a mattress and pillows that are comfortable and don’t cause you to toss and turn at night.
If you feel hot, use a small fan or air conditioner. If early morning light wakes you, try blackout curtains. Eliminate as many of the barriers that keep you from getting a good night’s rest as possible.
Sleep is extremely important to your overall health, so if your insomnia doesn’t improve, bring your concerns up to your doctor. He or she may recommend an overnight sleep study to diagnose and treat your sleep woes and help you get a better night’s rest.