Better Sleep for Seniors with Sleep Therapy

Sep 28, 2021
Senior woman sleeping in bed

Sleep isn’t just something we do when we’re tired; sleep is absolutely essential to senior health and well-being. According to the Sleep Foundation’s article, “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” the amount of sleep needed to stay healthy varies by age with seniors 65 years of age and older requiring 7-8 hours.

For many seniors, however, good quality sleep can become elusive for many reasons, including changes in circadian rhythms, different health conditions, medications, frequent need to go to the bathroom, and even grief. But with a little knowledge, seniors can sleep well and stay healthy. Here are tips for making the most of every night’s sleep.

Get help for insomnia

One of the most common sleep disorders in seniors is insomnia, which makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. One study noted complaints of insomnia as high as 50% among people ages 60 and over. For some, insomnia may occur only occasionally, but when it is prolonged it can become a serious problem.

The causes of insomnia are many and include stress, irregular sleep schedules, changes in the body’s circadian rhythm, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, acute and chronic pain, medications, mental health concerns like post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleep-related health disorders like sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome.

Many seniors take sleep aids like melatonin or sleeping pills without really understanding the underlying cause of insomnia. These may help once in a while (when prescribed by a physician) but the best way to work through insomnia is to define why it’s occurring and address the causes with the help of a qualified medical professional.

A senior’s physician can assess the situation and prescribe the therapies and/or medications that are best for each individual’s personal needs. The Mayo Clinic article, “Insomnia” looks at the condition, diagnosis, and appropriate treatment options including different therapies and medications.

Maintain healthy sleep habits

A good night’s sleep is possible, especially if seniors maintain habits that set the stage. For example, bedrooms should be quiet, dark, and free of distractions like computer screens (yes that includes tablets, cell phones and Kindles!). Clocks and nightlights should also be placed so they are not in the line of vision and if necessary seniors can wear a sleep mask to ensure the least possible light.

Another good habit is to observe the same pre-sleep ritual every night. A warm bath, a little time listening to relaxing music or reading before bed can help slow the body down and encourage better sleep.

Also be sure to set the temperature to the optimum setting, which varies by season and age. While infants need a warmer temperature since they may not be able to regulate body temperature as well as adults, seniors sleep better at lower temperatures because they may have health conditions like hormonal swings, sleep apnea or others. Trying different temperatures is the best way to determine the one that works best for each senior.

To better understand the sleep/temperature connection, the sleep.com article, “What’s the Best Temperature for Sleep and Why Does It Matter?” is a great resource.

Watch what you eat and drink

Another interesting link is that between sleep and diet. Experts have long known that caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can negatively impact sleep, but science has now discovered what you eat and drink can also positively affect sleep. For example, just being well hydrated is conducive to better sleep, although it’s best for many seniors to drink throughout the day and avoid drinking too much water near bed time.

As for food, in one study of U.S. women and sleep, the Mediterranean diet factored into better sleep due to its high vegetable and fruit content and low amounts of dairy, fish, eggs, red meat, and poultry. Specifically, proteins are great sleep aides while sugars, carbohydrates and fats are not. Other great sleep helpers are fiber, magnesium, vitamin D, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids. To learn more about how a good diet can improve sleep, read the Psychology Today article, “The Connection Between Diet and Sleep.”

Sleep and exercise

Exercise is key to good health at every age and seniors are no exception. And one of the best forms of exercise is also one of the easiest and safest for seniors: aerobic exercise. Also known as cardio exercise, aerobic exercise includes walking, running, jogging, swimming, cycling, and tennis. These exercises not only improve cardiac health, help lower blood pressure, and reduce chronic pain, they also contribute to better sleep. Get the low down on aerobic exercise in the seniorsmobility.org blog, “Cardio for Seniors: Best Senior Cardio Exercises.”

But just about any form of exercise will encourage better sleep thanks to the release of endorphins, the chemicals that help reduce stress and improve moods. And as long as it’s safe to exercise outdoors, getting sunshine boosts vitamin D, and the fresh autumn air is a wonderful addition to an exercise routine. For more about sleep and exercise, check out the sleep.org article, “How Exercise Affects Sleep.”

Senior health is essential to a great life and at Countryside our goal is to provide residents with every opportunity to sleep well and stay healthy and happy. For more information about Countryside, please call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.

assisted living near me

Subscribe to our blog.

Recent Posts

Michigan Senior Living: The Complete Guide for 2022

Ready to find your forever home in Michigan? You’re in luck! Few states come close to the natural beauty, affordability and high quality of life found in Pure Michigan. No matter what type of retirement community you’re looking for, you can find it here — if you know...

What the Best Michigan Memory Care Residences Have to Offer

For seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia, memory loss can be jarring, lonely and even anger-inducing. They may be unable to remember basic facts, like what year it is, their location or a loved one’s name, all of which can contribute to feelings of a lost identity....

Top Qualities of the Best Retirement Communities in Michigan

Entering your golden years can be an exhilarating adventure, or it can be a stressful, uncertain transition. For most people, the difference comes down to whether or not they feel secure and supported in their new phase of life. Finding a retirement community that...

Assisted Living in Michigan: Everything You Need to Know

What happens when seniors can no longer live comfortably at home? Some people think that being unable to live alone means that a senior should enter nursing care, but that’s not necessarily true. The reality is that there are several living options in between total...

Memory Care Services in Jackson, MI.

Does your loved one struggle with serious memory loss? Losing memory and other cognitive functions is scary — it can feel like losing yourself. People who suffer from dementia and related conditions can become withdrawn and isolated, depressed or even angry. These...

Your Options for Assisted Living in Jackson, MI

How do you want to age? It’s a simple question, but an important one. Everyone who is lucky enough to live a long life will interact with old age, and preparing for that reality can make the aging process easier. By 2030, all baby boomers will be 65 or older. As the...

Comparing Costs of Assisted Living vs. Home Care

When envisioning retirement, seniors may plan to travel the world, spend more time with family and friends, or take up a new hobby to fill their days. But they don’t always plan for the cost of care should they need it. From just a little help with housekeeping to...

Senior Living in Jackson, MI: Guide for Seniors and Adult Children

The opportunity to grow older is a gift. It means more time to spend with the people you love, doing the activities you enjoy. There are a lot of misconceptions about getting older, especially when it comes to quality of life. Although ageist stereotypes may lead you...

Independent Living in Jackson, MI

Everyone ages, but no one ages in exactly the same way. Whereas some older people experience mobility issues and cognitive decline, others stay sprightly and mentally sharp their entire lives. That means that two seniors who are exactly the same age can have...

Share This