Aging and Sleep

Aging and Sleep

Aging and Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, our sleep needs remain relatively constant as we get older. What this means is that regardless of our age, humans still require 7-8 hours for optimal physical, mental, and emotional health. This runs counter to the common conception that the older we get, the less sleep we need. This is not true.

So why do we constantly hear about people sleeping less as they get older?

This results from changes in what researchers call our “sleep architecture.” This architecture is understood as the pattern that structure our sleep, i.e. sleep cycles that people experience while they’re asleep. Humans go through stages of light sleep, and then incrementally fall into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, and finally back to lighter sleep. REM sleep is the deepest sleep cycle we go into. This cycle happens several times night. Changes to this “architecture” will alter how rested we feel. These changes can be a result of mental and physical illnesses or the medicines used to treat these illnesses.

Other factors that might contribute to sleep disturbances include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Alcohol
  • Changes in the body’s Circadian Rhythm
  • Bodily Pain from injuries or arthritis
  • Caffeine consumption
  • Bladder problems

How to Treat Sleep Issues

As we can see from the list above, sometimes treating sleep disturbance means treating certain underlying causes. Other times, being cognizant of your sleeping habits may be the approach needed. If certain substance impact your sleep quality, like coffee or alcohol, then it is recommended to avoid using these substance before bed. Additionally, taking naps in the middle of the day may affect how quickly you fall asleep at night. Sometimes, falling sleep depends on psychology and how you use your bed. For instance, if you constantly use the bed for activities other than sleep, like watching TV or talking on the phone, you may want to thing again. Your bed should only be used for sleep and sex. This practice will help your mind associate the bed with sleep, hopefully helping you fall asleep faster at night. Lastly, exercising, like going for walks or jogs, can be very conducive to sleep. Just be careful not to exercise too closely to bedtime as your body might be over-energized.

Other tips can include:

  • Being strict about a bed time
  • Taking a warm bath at night
  • Setting aside time to meditate and breathe
  • Taking time to calm down before bed (put yourself in “sleep mode”)
  • Go out in the sun sometimes

ElderCare at Home wants to make sure that you are well-rested. Caregiving can take a lot of energy, so it is important to preserve and renew that energy with rest. For questions, please call us at 888-285-0093 or visit our website!

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