The Importance of Getting a Good Night's Sleep for Seniors

Helping an aging loved one get a good night's rest may be a real challenge for family caregivers. Getting a good night's sleep is the best way to feel refreshed, ready to tackle the day, and focused. But, your loved one may have trouble sleeping due to health problems or age-related decline.

Lethargy, distraction, worry, depression, and irritability are some of the symptoms that a loved one may face due to a lack of adequate sleep. Their immune system may be negatively impacted by sleep deprivation, and difficulties from chronic long-term health conditions like diabetes and heart disease may become more likely.

The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to help your elderly loved one get a decent night's sleep, like creating a calming nighttime routine or enlisting the help of a professional caregiver from Senior Home Care by Angels. Our personal home care services can help your loved one feel relaxed before they go to bed so they can sleep soundly throughout the night and feel refreshed the next day.

Why Do Seniors Have Sleep Issues?

Contrary to popular belief, seniors need as much sleep now as they did when they were younger. Sleep is important for their physical and mental well-being. However, tens of millions of adults suffer from a sleep disorder which leads to physical and cognitive issues. There are many factors that can cause sleep deprivation. Try to figure out what's causing your loved one's sleep problems before you try to solve them. The natural effects of aging might contribute to certain senior people's sleep problems, but their habits and way of life can also play a role.

When people become older, they may experience changes in the hypothalamic region known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is responsible for maintaining the body's internal clock. These changes may disrupt sleep. The SCN regulates the body's hormone releases, hunger signals, and sleep-wake cycles, among many other behaviors and responses, during the course of a 24-hour day. The Sleep Foundation claims that as we become older, our SCN degrades, altering our internal clocks and influencing our perception of tiredness. Furthermore, exposure to sunshine has an impact on the SCN, and many seniors find it difficult to get enough daylight. There is also a tendency for older adults to naturally produce less melatonin, which is a hormone that assists in the coordination of the body's internal clock in order to increase the likelihood of peaceful sleep.

In addition, health issues, medications, frequent urination, as well as brain disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, can all lead to a lack of sleep. Seniors who are in pain because of arthritis or health problems can also struggle with a sleep disorder. Certain lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough exercise or consuming alcohol and caffeine, can also negatively impact sleep patterns.

Therefore, even while certain sleep-related problems might arise from unavoidable circumstances, there are several strategies to assist a senior loved one in making regular adjustments to their routine to encourage a good night's sleep.

Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation for Seniors

Sleep deprivation can lead to many health problems for older adults, such as:

  • Cognitive Impairment. Sleep helps to restore the brain and when seniors don’t get enough sleep, there is no production of new brain cells. Also, sleep deprivation impairs alertness and memory.
  • Weakened Immunity. Without enough sleep the immune system is unable to produce enough antibodies to fight cold and infections. Since seniors already have a weakened immune system sleep deprivation can have even bigger negative effects.
  • Greater Heart Disease Risk. Lack of sleep leads to higher blood pressure levels which are directly linked with heart disease and other chronic health issues.
  • Increased Risk of Obesity. People who do not sleep well often crave sugary foods and carbohydrates, and therefore gain unwanted weight.
  • Diabetes. Without sleep, the body starts producing less insulin that is responsible for regulating blood sugar. This is why those who suffer from insomnia are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • Anxiety and/or Depression. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression and anxiety.

Tips for Better Sleep

Help an older loved one get adequate sleep with these tips:

Create a Consistent Routine

Your elderly loved one's likelihood of having a restful night's sleep may be improved by helping them develop regular and healthy habits. Every night before bed, they should:

  • Set a regular time for themselves to go to bed and wake up;
  • Steer clear of tobacco use and big meals just before bed;
  • Not consume coffee or other stimulants 3-4 hours before bedtime;
  • Make putting on pajamas, brushing their teeth, and taking a bath all part of a regular nightly ritual to help them relax.

You should consider your elderly loved one's daily routine in addition to their evening routine if you want them to obtain a decent night's sleep. Do they exercise enough? Do they like lengthy naps? In order to better regulate their internal clock, it is recommended that they exercise often throughout the day (but not within three hours of going to bed). This will help them feel drowsy at night and increase their exposure to sunshine. Furthermore, your loved one should only take brief naps when absolutely required since excessive daytime napping may disrupt the body's normal cycles and prevent them from feeling exhausted when it is time to go to bed at night.

Be Careful About Fluid Intake Before Bed

Staying hydrated is crucial, but your loved one should be mindful of when and what they drink. Not only do many beverages include caffeine and alcohol, but getting up many times throughout the night to refill them also increases the risk of falling.

A big water bottle with a spout that is easy to reach would be perfect for a senior who needs a drink while they sleep; that way, they won't have to get out of bed often for a refill or worry about spills. Your loved one may also find it comforting to have a warm glass of milk to drink. One way to lessen the chances of having to wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom is to avoid drinking anything within an hour of going to bed.

Create Dark, Quiet, and Warm Surroundings

Your loved one will have an easier time getting to sleep and staying asleep if their bedroom is dark, peaceful, and warm. To assist your loved one in creating the ideal atmosphere, do the following:

  • Use blackout curtains to make the room dark, but illuminate a pathway with nightlights in case your loved one has to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom;
  • Create calming background noise with a white noise machine or the radio;
  • In order to avoid having excessive blankets fall on the floor and creating tripping hazards, encourage your loved one to wear warmer pajamas instead of additional blankets;
  • Discourage them from using electronics in bed. If they still can't fall asleep after 20 minutes, they should do something quiet like read or listen to soothing music until they feel sleepy.

Talk to Your Loved One's Doctor

Making an appointment with your loved one's doctor will help get to the bottom of any persistent problems they may be experiencing getting to sleep or staying asleep. In order to determine their condition, their primary care physician may order tests or suggest they see a specialist.

In order to assist a loved one achieve better sleep at night, it's important to determine whether their sleep problems are related to a medical condition. Once you have that diagnosis, you may begin to explore treatment options.

Consider Personal Home Care Services from Senior Home Care by Angels

Making sure your senior loved one gets adequate sleep is a simple way to improve their quality of life. To ensure your loved one gets a restful night's sleep, look no further than Senior Home Care by Angels. Our committed team can help seniors in Canada obtain the personal home care they need to finally relax and unwind as they age in place.

Some of the ways our caregivers can help seniors sleep at night include:

  • Helping them prepare a light, healthy snack or filling up a water bottle before bed
  • Clearing clutter from walkways so they don't trip when heading to the bedroom
  • Reminding them to take their medication before going to sleep
  • Helping them bathe and put on clean, comfy pajamas
  • Drawing curtains and turning on ambient sounds as your loved one gets ready for bed
  • Monitoring them throughout the night and helping them if they wake up at night or need to use the bathroom
  • Keeping your family informed if your loved one continues to have issues with getting a good night's sleep

If you wish to learn more about our personal home care services, please contact your local Senior Home Care by Angels office today.

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