3 Surprising Ways Sleep Quality Impacts Senior Health

Posted: 3/12/2019 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare
National Sleep Awareness week comes every March, and while this time of year provides an excellent opportunity to reflect upon and improve your sleep, this topic merits your attention throughout the year.

Everyone appreciates a good night’s sleep. Getting off our feet and relaxing into a comfortable bed is an excellent opportunity for our minds and bodies to get the rest and repair they need.

Getting enough high quality sleep is critical to senior health.

Afflictions like restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea, which are more common in seniors, can dramatically impact the amount and quality of sleep. Stress, worrying about health or loved ones and even medications can also affect sleep for seniors.

While nearly everyone is at risk for sleep deprivation, the risk is especially high for seniors. Plus, the potential ramifications of sleep deprivation can be especially catastrophic.

These three negative ramifications of poor sleep quality on senior health may surprise you:

1. Increased risk of falling.
Poor sleep quality can affect balance, which is particularly dangerous for seniors. Even a minor fall can have a serious impact on long-term health for the elderly, so even minor sleep deprivation could lead to increased risk.

2. Complications with other health issues.
If your senior loved one is suffering from chronic conditions (or even a risk for conditions) like type 2 diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, poor sleep quality can increase the risk and/or manifestations of these conditions.

3. Decreased immune system function.
The cold and flu season is a nuisance for most, but for seniors it can be deadly. The flu in particular is particularly dangerous, with seniors accounting for between 70 and 90% of deaths from the flu, according to data from the CDC. With the risk of complications due to everyday illnesses increasing as we get older, an additional decrease in immune function could mean the difference between life or death from even a simple illness.

Tips to improve sleep quality in seniors

To help your senior loved ones get better rest and stave off the potential health risks associated with sleep deprivation, try these tips:

1. Encourage Mom or Dad to stick to a regular bedtime. Our bodies thrive on consistency, and research shows that a regular bedtime helps our bodies prepare for sleep, and ultimately improves our sleep quality.

2. Identify and treat any underlying issues. Afflictions like sleep apnea, GERD and restless leg syndrome -- which can all impact sleep -- can also be treated. The impact of treatment for these conditions on sleep quality can be profound.

3. Talk to a doctor about switching medications. In some cases, if medications are causing insomnia or poor sleep quality, a doctor may be able to switch medications in order to improve sleep quality.

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, particularly at night. Coffee or other food and beverages containing caffeine can affect your sleep, even as long as six hours before bedtime! Alcohol can also have a negative impact on sleep -- even if a glass of wine makes you sleepy, your overall sleep quality will be poor.

5. Exercise regularly. Exercise has a range of benefits for seniors (and all of us!), and can have a particularly positive impact on sleep quality. Just be sure Mom or Dad isn’t exercising within four hours of going to bed so that the increased heart rate and activity doesn’t negatively impact sleep.

Home care services can help ensure your senior loved ones get the sleep they need.

To help augment the care you are providing to your senior loved ones, home care services from Interim HealthCare can help keep Mom or Dad safe and healthy. From helping Mom or Dad get moving to providing healthy food and medication reminders, a home care worker can help you ensure your loved ones get the best possible care and stay healthy for as long as possible. Learn more about senior home care services from Interim Healthcare here.