Why Is Good Sleep Hygiene Important For Older Adults?
Posted: 3/9/2022 12:05 PM by
When you were younger, did you have the ability to go to sleep at 2 a.m. and sleep until noon the next day? How about going to sleep at 9 p.m. and waking up naturally at 6 a.m.? As you’ve aged, chances are sleep doesn’t come quite as easily as it used to. Maybe you’re retired and don’t want to be tied down to a regimented sleep schedule. That’s one of the benefits of not working anymore, right?
Even if you don’t have to be awake at the crack of dawn and your days are filled with less stressful activities, it’s really important that seniors do their best to have good sleep hygiene habits.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Just as it’s important for us to take care of our basic physical hygiene by bathing and brushing our teeth, good sleep hygiene is the backbone of everything we do each day.
Why is sleep so important as we age?
Getting consistent, good-quality sleep is important for people of all ages, but it’s especially important for older adults. According to a recent study by the NCBI, sleep is an important determinant of human health, and healthy sleep is crucial for healthy aging.
It’s very common for sleep disorders and disturbances to increase dramatically as we age. Not only is it frustrating to not sleep well, but it can also accelerate the aging process and even contribute to a wide range of chronic diseases. So, how can you turn back the clock and improve your sleep quality?
Get back to the basics: how to get a good night’s sleep
Setting yourself up with good sleep hygiene habits earlier is key. Remember, a habit takes time to build, so even if you have to treat your sleeping routine differently than you did five years ago, it’s worth a shot to help you sleep better.
There are many things you can do to help get a good night’s sleep. Here are a few things you can try, as recommended by the National Institute on Aging:
Follow a regular sleep schedule
Just because you don’t have to get up for work each morning, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow a schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep.
Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening
It may be tempting to take a nap in the late afternoon, but it can really affect your ability to fall asleep later. If you need to rest your eyes during the day, try to take a nap before 4 p.m.
Develop a bedtime routine
Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids! Getting yourself into a regular routine will help tell your body when it’s time for sleep.
Try not to watch television or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom
Make sure the bedroom is reserved for sleeping, not for scrolling. Not only do electronic devices emit blue light that can keep you awake longer, they can also be distracting.
Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature
This can be tough if you share a bedroom with someone who doesn’t prefer the same temperature, but try to find middle ground. Being too hot or too cold can absolutely affect your sleep quality.
Use low lighting in the evenings
Dim the lights in the evening. This is another way to signal to your brain that it’s time for sleep. Include this in your bedtime routine.
Exercise at regular times each day
You know that exercise is good for your overall health, but it can also help you sleep better. Time your exercise when you are most alert, but not within three hours of bedtime.
Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a satisfying dinner, but make sure that dinner isn’t too close to the beginning of your bedtime routine.
Stay away from caffeine late in the day
This is a no-brainer; caffeine is a stimulant that can keep your mind and heart racing. Pick a cut-off time for that last cup of coffee and stick to it!
Remember—alcohol won’t help you sleep
Don’t turn to alcohol to help you sleep, especially if you are already taking a sleep aid–the results of combining the two can be deadly.
Ask for help if you still struggle with sleeping well
Even if you’ve made an effort to follow the tips above, you may still struggle with insomnia or other sleep disorders. Just know that you are not alone. According to the National Institute on Aging, insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults age 60 and older.
Reach out to your primary care physician and let them know you are having trouble sleeping. They should be able to review any medications that could be affecting your sleep. Your physician may also assess your mental status, and may even prescribe a sleep aid or a sleep study to help get to the root of the problem.