Think about it. Humans can go longer without food than without sleep! Research has shown that older adults need just as much sleep as younger adults – seven to nine hours per night – but often get much less. Besides the feeling of fatigue, lack of sleep can cause a host of other ailments such as depression, irritability, increased fall risk, and even memory problems. Everyone should try their best to get enough sleep. Proper sleep keeps your mind alert, preserves energy levels, and helps you live life to the fullest. There are countless reasons as to why seniors cannot get good quality sleep, and it varies for many. The good news is that many of these reasons are more obvious than you think. The sooner you know the cause, the sooner you can fix it.
Some common causes of inadequate sleep quality:
1. Napping too much. Naps are a refreshing way to get rest during the day but can easily turn into deep sleep. This will then affect your sleeping pattern at night. Aim to nap for 45 minutes or less, earlier in the day. Doing so will help ensure that you do not affect your nighttime sleeping pattern.
2. Consuming too much caffeine throughout the day. Caffeine stimulant strength can last longer as you age. It’s important to be mindful of the amount of caffeine that you consume and what time you have it. If you consume caffeine later in the day or especially in the evening hours, you might find yourself wide awake when you should and could be sleeping peacefully.
3. Medications can interrupt sleep. Many of the medications we take as we age are known to affect sleep quality. Many seniors are on more than one type of medication. If your regimen is complicating your sleep patterns, see your doctor about adjusting the dosage, timing, or switching the medication entirely. Don't do this on your own!
Five easy tips for successful sleep quality:
1. Develop a regular schedule with a bedtime routine. Condition your body to expect sleep at a certain time of the evening. Also, try to get up at the same time each morning.
2. Keep your bedroom dark and noise-free. Avoid watching television or surfing the internet while in bed.
3. Sprinkle just-washed sheets and pillowcases with lavender water. The scent has been shown in studies to promote relaxation, which can lead to better sleep.
4. Buy a new pillow. Studies show that pillows with an indent in the center can enhance sleep quality and reduce neck pain. Also, try a "cool" pillow! A cool pillow contains either all-natural fibers or a combination of sodium sulfate and ceramic fibers that absorb heat and help keep your head cool. Who doesn’t like a cool pillow?!
5. If your diet will allow it, eat a handful of walnuts before bed. You'll be giving yourself a boost of fiber and essential fatty acids along with the amino acid tryptophan – a natural sleep inducer.
As always, it is important for you to seek the advice and council of your doctor if you are having problems sleeping. Quality of sleep, like most things, is affected by numerous factors. I have only hit the tip of the iceberg in this post.