Did you know that more seniors suffer from insomnia than any other age group? It’s a complex condition that has many causes. Understanding insomnia and aging can help you get the sleep you need.
Insomnia and Aging
A common misbelief about seniors is that they need less sleep as they get older. This is, of course, untrue. Adults over the age of 65 still need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. Unfortunately, nearly half of all seniors complain about having trouble sleeping, and a third of seniors are formally diagnosed with insomnia.
Missing out on sleep can make life difficult. It makes people cranky, depressed, and irritable. It can also have a real impact on your physical health. Our bodies need adequate sleep to heal and repair themselves. If they do not get that, bodily functions like the immune system can suffer, leaving us more vulnerable to disease and other issues. A long-term lack of sleep can also contribute to chronic conditions like high blood pressure.
Clearly, insomnia and aging is not an issue any senior wants to ignore. But what can you do to improve your sleep?
Why Can’t Seniors Sleep?
While we shouldn’t assume every senior is doomed to bad sleep, there is some truth to the idea that aging can make sleep more difficult. If you’re a senior struggling with insomnia, there are a few causes you should keep an eye out for:
- Aging Issues: Seniors get more sensitive to heat and cold as they age, which can result in bad sleep if temperatures fluctuate during the night. Menopause can also cause hormonal fluctuations that disturb sleep.
- Chronic Pain: Arthritis and other age-related pain issues can make sleeping comfortably difficult. Many seniors report being awoken by pain during the night or suffering from recurrent pain that makes it difficult to drift off to sleep.
- Medications: Some common medications for seniors have side effects that result in a lack of sleep. For example, beta-blockers are commonly prescribed for seniors with various heart conditions, and they have been directly linked to insomnia in clinical trials.
- Lifestyle Changes: Some seniors have a more sedentary lifestyle, which can disrupt sleep cycles. A lack of social engagement can also have a depressive effect on our moods and contribute to insomnia. Finally, a lack of energy or mobility can make it difficult to take care of our homes. Chaotic environments are sometimes responsible for a lack of sleep, too.
Do you often experience any of these common causes of insomnia? If so, it might be time to get some help.
How to Get Better Sleep
Before you try any at-home remedies, talk to your doctor. Disorders like sleep apnea require medical intervention to improve. If medication or pain management is the issue, your doctor can work with you on those issues as well.
Still having trouble sleeping? There are some steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene:
- Make sure your bedroom is a good environment for sleep. Your home should be a naturally relaxing space that doesn’t cause you additional stress. Your bedroom should be dark, cool, and as quiet as possible. Consider using a fan, white noise machine, or a sleeping mask if needed.
- Be careful with light at night. Artificial lights suppress your body’s ability to make melatonin, a natural sleep hormone. Turn off computers and TVs one hour before bed.
- Try to get regular exercise during the day, and engage with people socially. These activities “wear out” our bodies and minds through active engagement, making sleep better as a result.
- Normalize your sleeping schedule. Have a set bedtime. Get up at the same time every day, even if it’s difficult, and avoid afternoon naps.
- Develop a soothing bedtime routine. Listen to calming music, or take a hot bath. If you do the same things regularly before a set bedtime, your body will associate them with sleep.
Insomnia and aging can be a tricky problem to solve, but help is available. Don’t let bad sleep derail your golden years. Make a few simple changes, talk to your doctor, and you’ll be catching Zs again before you know it.
The Shores of Lake Phalen is an assisted living community in a quiet, peaceful environment in Maplewood, Minnesota. We offer numerous health and safety amenities, fun events and activities, a friendly and accommodating staff, and so much more. Schedule a tour of the community to explore our spacious apartments, elegant dining room, and more. We look forward to hearing from you!