You may have heard that adults over the age of 60 need less sleep – but that’s just a myth. Sleeping problems in the elderly, however, can lead to them having less sleep than optimal. A third of our lives are spent sleeping, so if you notice that your loved one is having difficulties with sleeping, here’s how you can help improve their sleep quality.
How Does Age Affect Sleep?
Age affects our sleep schedule as the body’s circadian rhythm shifts forward in time as we age. This shift is known as a phase advance, which many adults over the age of 60 experience. They may notice that they get tired earlier in the afternoon and are waking up earlier in the morning.
As we age, our sleep patterns often shift. Adults in their later years may find that they spend more time in the earlier, lighter stages of sleep and less in the later and deeper stages. This results in them waking up more often at night, making their sleep more fragmented.
Daytime napping can also negatively affect sleep schedules and is more common in adults in this age group. Too much napping in the afternoon can lead to difficulties sleeping at night.
Common Sleep Issues
Some common sleep issues that your loved one may face can include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Nighttime urination
- Restless leg syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- REM sleep behavior disorder
How to Help Your Loved One Sleep Better
You can help your loved one sleep better by:
- Encouraging Them to Exercise. Regular exercise helps adults across all age groups fall asleep faster, sleep for longer, and have a better quality of sleep. Now that spring’s out, you can encourage your loved one to take a daily morning walk for added benefits.
- Reduce Distractions in the Bedroom. This is especially true for screens. Exposure before bed to bright lights, cell phones, and televisions can make it harder to fall asleep. Keep your loved one’s television in another room and move electronics out of the bedroom.
- Encourage Them to Avoid Substances that Make It Hard to Sleep. These include alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. Encourage your loved ones to reduce their caffeine intake, quit smoking, and eat dinner at least four hours before their bedtime.
- Develop a Bedtime Routine. Work with your loved ones to find activities that help them relax before bed. This can include a warm bath, reading, or meditative practice. Once they’ve got this bedtime routine down, keeping a regular sleep schedule is also paramount. Avoid changing this schedule too often and too drastically, as it can be difficult for adults in this age group to get back into their schedules.
Help Your Loved One Sleep Safely
You also want to ensure that your loved one is sleeping safely. Try these tips to start.
- Keep a Telephone By Their Bed. Not a cellphone, but a regular telephone that they can use in case of emergencies.
- Make Lights Easily Accessible. This reduces the need to stumble around in the dark when your loved one gets out of bed. You can install lights with motion sensors.
- Reduce Hazards in the Bedroom. Ensure that your loved one doesn’t smoke in bed and try to remove things that can be easily tripped over.