Sleep is such a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle along with nutrition and physical activity, especially as sleep problems tend to increase in older adults. Our guest blog post this week by Kevin Wells of seniordiabetic.com , provides some of these great, simple tips to promote improved sleep to continue promoting your healthy lifestyle despite aging!
When you can’t sleep well, your entire quality of life suffers. Your brain feels foggy, aches and pains flare up, and you can’t enjoy time with your family like you used to. While sleep problems may be common in older adults, they’re not inevitable. Read on to learn what you can do to sleep better and get back to enjoying life.
How Common are Sleep Problems in the Elderly?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of older adults experience symptoms of insomnia. These include difficulty falling asleep, reduced REM sleep, and frequent waking throughout the night.
While changes in sleeping patterns are a normal part of aging, sleep problems are not. Shifts in circadian rhythms lead older adults to go to bed and wake up earlier, but trouble falling and staying asleep is generally attributable to health problems and medications used to treat them.
Improving Sleep Through Lifestyle Choices
Many sleep problems can be solved or at least lessened through simple lifestyle changes. If you’re struggling to fall and stay asleep or experiencing daytime drowsiness, try adopting better sleep habits. By keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule, restricting daytime napping to one 30-minute nap, and avoiding blue light before bedtime, you can regulate your body’s internal clock so you’re more likely to feel tired when it’s time for bed.
Adopting a more physically active lifestyle is also key to improving your sleep. A sedentary lifestyle brings a number of health consequences, including loss of muscle and bone mass and increased risk of cardiovascular illness, cancer, depression, and cognitive decline, according to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability. It also affects your energy levels and sleep. If you’re not getting enough exercise, you’re more likely to experience daytime sleepiness and insomnia.
Diet plays a role in sleep too: A healthy, varied diet that limits added sugars and processed foods helps regulate hormones and neurotransmitters for a better night’s sleep. Certain mineral deficiencies, including magnesium, potassium, and calcium deficiencies, can lead to fragmented sleep and disturbances to the sleep-wake cycle. In addition to eating a well-rounded diet rich in fruits and vegetables, seniors should stay hydrated and avoid heavy meals and caffeine before bedtime.
Creating a Healthy Sleep Environment
If your bedroom isn’t conducive to quality sleep, you’re more likely to experience insomnia and sleep disturbances. In addition to sleeping on a comfortable bed, keep your bedroom cool and dark to promote restful sleep. Keep electronics out of the bedroom and use light-blocking curtains if you’re settling down before dark.
If you’re waking up with an itchy, sore throat or dry skin, a humidifier can regulate humidity in your bedroom to eliminate problems caused by dry indoor air. Humidifiers can also ease symptoms of respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD, and help reduce splits and cracks in your furniture and flooring.
Identifying and Treating Sleep Disorders
If you’re still experiencing sleep problems after taking the measures mentioned above, it’s time to talk to your doctor. There are a number of health conditions and medications that can impact sleep quality. Altering a treatment regimen could help you achieve restful sleep.
Sometimes insomnia is caused by a sleep disorder. Ailments such as restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and sleep apnea affect your ability to fall and stay asleep and the quality of your rest. Your doctor may order a sleep study to diagnose sleep disorders and treat the condition so you can start sleeping better.
You don’t have to live with poor quality sleep. Not only are most sleep problems treatable, but improving the quality of sleep can better your overall health and enjoyment of life. If you’ve improved your lifestyle and sleeping environment and you’re still struggling to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your sleep problems.
I hope you enjoyed these tips from our guest blogger and would love to hear your feedback or any other tips you have found successful in improving your sleep!
Wishing you a week of revitalization and health,
–Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”
**Photo Credit: Unsplash**