You would think that not needing to get up at the crack of dawn or lose sleep over work stress would be one of the biggest perks of being a senior. Unfortunately, poor sleep and sleep disorders are common in older adults.
Numerous studies have found that sleep patterns change as we age. Sleep becomes fragmented and many older adults find themselves up too early even though they feel tired. Certain medications, chronic pain, medical conditions, and mental health issues, such as depression, contribute to poor sleep. A person’s lifestyle and sleep environment can also make a good night’s sleep hard to come by.
Not getting enough sleep doesn’t just make you feel lousy, but it’s also been shown to have a negative impact on health. It can trigger or worsen feelings of sadness and anxiety, lead to cognitive decline, and increase the risk of serious medical conditions and early death. Fortunately, there are things that can be done to improve sleep quality and help you or your aging loved one wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Proven Ways to Improve Sleep without Pills
Before turning to sleeping pills, which have side effects, increase the risk of falls, and don’t address the cause of poor sleep, consider medication-free remedies for better sleep.
There are all kinds of natural remedies and lifestyle changes that have been proven to improve sleep, such as exercise and warm baths.
While our caregivers are able to provide home health care services when needed, they provide non-medical home care, too. This includes helping with all of these proven sleep remedies and other activities known to improve sleep.
How In-Home Care Can Help a Senior Get their ZZZs
Establishing a regular sleep schedule is an important part of sleep health. Part of that involves keeping active and resisting the urge to spend time in bed or sleeping during the day. For a senior who spends most of their time alone, this can be easier said than done. A caregiver can help with this and more, including helping seniors:
- stay active by accompanying them on walks or to other physical activities such as fitness classes
- remain social and engage with others by escorting them on visits with friends or to social outings, or by offering regular companionship, such as playing games or going to a movie
- ensure healthy meals are prepared and eaten 2 or 3 hours before bedtime so as not to interfere with sleep
- help create a sleep-friendly environment, such as making sure bedding is clean, elevating your feet, blinds are drawn, and the room temperature is comfortable for sleep
- assist with a soothing bedtime routine, such as a warm bath or a sponge bath or reading
- get out in the sunlight, which helps with melatonin production and improves mood and the sleep-wake cycle
- watching for side effects of medication that may be interfering with sleep
If you’re a senior who’s having trouble getting a good night’s rest or have noticed aging parent or loved one puttering about in the wee hours of the morning, an in-home caregiver may be able to help.
David Porter, CPCA
Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care
Jean-Philippe Chaput, Suzy L. Wong, Isabelle Michaud. Duration and quality of sleep among Canadians aged 18 to 79. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2017009/article/54857-eng.htm
Suzuki, Keisuke et al. “Sleep disorders in the elderly: Diagnosis and management.” Journal of general and family medicine, vol. 18,2 61-71. 30 Mar. 2017. https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jgf2.27
Jonathan Desaulniers, Sophie Desjardins, Sylvie Lapierre, and Alain Desgagné, “Sleep Environment and Insomnia in Elderly Persons Living at Home,” Journal of Aging Research, vol. 2018, Article ID 8053696, 7 pages, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/8053696.