Senior Care - Fighting Poor Sleep
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Fighting Poor Sleep

For many seniors, a common challenge is getting a good night’s sleep. As we advance in years, you may notice that you nap more during the day, feel tired much earlier at night, have trouble falling asleep at night, find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, and have a hard time falling back asleep. All these issues can cause your energy levels to be low throughout the day, negatively impacting your quality of life.

Sometimes, poor sleep has an obvious cause, such as side effects of medications, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, stress, frequent nighttime urge to use the restroom, or chronic pain. If your sleep quality has suddenly decreased after any major health changes or life events, that could be the culprit. Discussing your concerns with your healthcare provider might provide some insight, or they could prescribe you a sleep study where they can discover any issues that occur in your sleep.

Barring a major medical issue interfering with your sleep, there are several strategies you can employ to give yourself the best possible chance for having consistent, uninterrupted sleep nightly.

Creating a sleep schedule and sticking to it will force your body into a pattern. Going to bed and waking up at the same time, each day, will support your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Avoid long or multiple naps if possible, so that come nighttime you’re tired enough to sleep.

Staying active is a great way to kill multiple birds with one stone. Exercise and physical activity will burn off energy throughout the day, making you more tired and ready to sleep come bedtime. This is, of course, in addition to the numerous other well documented health benefits of exercise. Taking a long walk, a bike ride, a dance or yoga class, or anything that gets you up on your feet moving is a great way to get some of the best sleep you’ve ever had.

Another thief of sleep in our modern world is electronics and screens. TVs, tablets, and phones emit light in the blue spectrum, just like the sun, which when we see it, tricks our brains into thinking we need to stay awake. Switching off all your screens for at least an hour before bed, as well as extinguishing any sources of light pollution in the bedroom, will stop you from staying awake. Make your room cool, quiet, and dark, so that it can be a haven for your rest and relaxation. If you find yourself thinking a lot of distracting thoughts before bed, writing them down in a journal you keep at your bedside, or reading a chapter or two of a book can help quiet them down.

Lastly, focus on getting most of your daily fluid intake in the morning and afternoon. Cutting off liquids in the evening, two or three hours before bedtime, will help prevent your bladder from filling in your sleep. As we age, our bladders aren’t as elastic as they used to be, and drinking too much liquid before bed is a surefire way to guarantee waking up for a nighttime trip to the bathroom.