During sleep, your body restores, repairs and rejuvenates itself, and replenishes hormones to a healthy level. According to NIH neuroscientist Dr. Merrill Mitler, “Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood.”
The older we get, the harder it becomes to get a good night’s sleep. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reports that 50 percent or more people 65 years older and older have sleep problems.
This can trigger a vicious cycle: Sleep problems increase the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and depression. And age-related chronic conditions such as high blood pressure can cause sleep problems, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Dr. Yuko Hara, of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, notes that there’s a chicken-and-egg relationship between poor sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. Poor sleep is connected to higher levels of Alzheimer’s markers amyloid and tau in the brain, but “we don’t really know if poor sleep causes Alzheimer’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease causes poor sleep,” she says.
Older men can have a particular problem getting a good night’s sleep. That’s because the prostate gland is a part of men’s bodies that never stops growing. By age 65 or older, it may grow enough to start pressing on the bladder, reducing its capacity and creating the need for bathroom trips in the middle of the night.
It’s not just the quantity of sleep that matters, but also the quality. Of the four stages of sleep, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is the deepest and most restful. The more years in your age, the less REM sleep in your nights.
This is why a new client’s sleep pattern is just one of the things that Senior Insights‘ thorough three-part assessment of the client’s physical, psychosocial and mental status covers. It includes not only interviews with the senior, but also with his or her family, to assess their needs too. This way, we can match a plan of coordinated services custom-tailored to each senior’s and each family’s specific needs.
So if senior care concerns are keeping you awake nights, please call or contact us to arrange a comprehensive consultation
Meanwhile, here are some other things that can help you get a better night’s sleep:
Exercise earlier in the day. Regular physical and mental activity helps your body feel tired and sleepy. But do it early in the day; exercising later might actually stimulate your body and keep you awake.
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. This includes coffee and non-herbal tea (even decafs have some caffeine in them), cocoa, chocolate, and sodas.
Eat at least three hours before bedtime. This will avoid sleep-disturbing heartburn.
Relax with meditation, mindfulness, or yoga on a regular basis.
Unplug. Televisions, computers, cell phones and other devices produce electromagnetic fields that actually disrupt sleep. Many of the displays also produce blue light, that sends waking signals to your brain. There are apps you can download to filter out blue light. And if you wear glasses, so can lens coatings.
Follow a relaxing nighttime routine. Dial down the adrenaline by drinking some herbal tea, taking a warm bath or Epsom salts foot soak, or reading a book. Doing this regularly tells your body that it’s time to sleep.
One thing you shouldn’t do is pop a sleeping pill. Older people’s metabolisms are slower, so the effects of prescription or over-the-counter sleeping meds – drowsiness and confusion, among others – can last well into the day.