The Truth About Sleep and Aging
A restful night's sleep is just a few lifestyle changes away.
Can't sleep? The truth about sleep and aging is that you can, and should, expect a good nights' sleep. As we age, we still require seven to nine hours of sleep, but our ability to get good quality sleep may be affected. This is the reason to begin developing good habits that will insure you get a good night's sleep as you age.
The first good sleep habit to incorporate into your life is a bedtime sleep ritual. This would entail allowing your body to wind down before retiring to bed. Bedtime rituals may include a warm bath, relaxing music or reading a book before getting into to bed. Some people have a small snack prior to sleep. This is great, as long as you don't over do it. Those with digestive problems do not want to eat a heavy meal before bedtime. This leads us into the next good sleep habit.
Eating and drinking play an important role in whether or not you get a good nights sleep. Eating a heavy meal late, or drinking a lot before bedtime, can interfere with your sleep pattern and cause frequent disruptions in your sleep cycle.
Spicy foods can affect digestion and cause gastric upset when you are trying to lie flat in bed. Those individuals who experience frequent heartburn, even if they are on medication, can suffer from eating too much before bedtime. So to get a restful night's sleep, eat about 4 hours before bedtime...and if you have a snack, make it a small one.
Drinking alcohol before bedtime will make you feel tired and sleepy. As alcohol is digested in the body, it goes from being a depressant to being a stimulant. As you start to feel tired and drowsy, your sleep cycle will be interrupted and you will experience a light and wakeful period.
Drinking before bedtime, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, should be done in moderation. Drinking copious amounts of fluids before bedtime will cause a disruption in your sleep to get up in the middle of the night. Caffeinated beverages have a diuretic effect on the body and will have the same result. This will disrupt your sleep cycle and interfere with a restful night's sleep.
Other Important Factors
Incorporate physical exercise or activity early into your day. If you are a person who doesn't like exercise, this does not mean that it has to be a tedious and hard workout. On the contrary: physical activity should be something that you enjoy. So if getting a restful night sleep is eluding you, try being more active. Swim, take water aerobics, dance, garden, or just take a walk. If you are unable to do these things, there are chair exercises that will get you moving. Being active and staying active, a key to healthy aging is also a step towards a good night's sleep.
It can be helpful to practice stress reduction techniques to get a restful night's sleep. As we age, some of us tend to worry over not being able to sleep. Some lie in bed and stress about the day's events or a new situation that has occurred in our lives. As we age we also experience major losses in our lives. We lose our lifelong friends, our spouse, or even our pets. Sleep can elude us.
You are never too old to learn how you respond to stress. You just have to be willing to take the time and want to change some habits to decrease or even alleviate stress. Stress reduction does not include counting sheep to sleep!
If you are on medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medications you're presently taking are responsible for a poor night's sleep. There are medications that would disrupt sleep in a variety of different ways.
A restful night's sleep is just a few lifestyle changes away. If you can't sleep, and have tried all these strategies, don't wait; see your health care professional.
Diane Carbo, RN has over 35 years’ experience in a variety of nursing settings, including orthopedics/rehabilitation nursing, home care, discharge planning, case management, oncology, hospice, senior behavior health, assisted living, and long term care. Her passion is to help people plan for long-term care needs, and to that end started AgingHomeHealthCare.com. Her goal is to assist aging seniors and their families to develop plans that allow individuals to remain home, safely and comfortably, in the least restrictive environment, regardless of age, income or ability level.