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Tips for Getting a Good Night's Rest in the Golden Years

My wife, Christine, and I recently moved to the Lowcountry and have opened Senior Helpers, an international home care organization serving aging adults, in Moss Creek Village Center.

As we meet and get to know our neighbors, we ask them about their senior health issues and concerns. Many have mentioned something that seems to become more difficult as we age: sleep.

As we age, our sleep habits can be adversely impacted by a number of factors. Some of these can be positively affected by our choices and conscious modifications to our daily habits.

Senior Helpers recently conducted a survey of 1,000 senior citizens ages 65 and older to determine if seniors are sleeping soundly. According to the survey, nearly 70 percent of seniors do not meet the National Sleep Foundation's sleep duration recommendation of seven to eight hours per night for older adults.

The study also finds a majority of seniors experience sleep fragmentation, with 88 percent waking up at least once per night and nearly 30 percent waking up three times or more.

If you have trouble sleeping soundly, consider the following sleep tips:

  • Exercise during the day. Physical activity is recommended to improve both sleep quality and overall sleep duration. Try incorporating moderate aerobic exercise into your daily routine like swimming, fast walking or even ballroom dancing, but be sure to consult with your doctor before jumping into any new exercise regimens.
  • Implement a pre-bedtime ritual. Calming nighttime activities will help your body relax and slow down, making you better prepared for bed. Only one-third of seniors are able to fall asleep instantly, and activities such as listening to music, taking a warm bath and meditation are helpful in expediting the unwinding process.
  • Avoid afternoon naps. Sleeping in the day can make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep at night. The good news? More than half (55 percent) of seniors don't find themselves needing to nap more as they age. If you do find yourself needing some mid-day shut eye, limit naptime to 30 minutes or less.
  • Drink fewer fluids at night. Bathroom breaks are the most common sleep disruptor among older adults. Avoiding liquids a couple of hours before bedtime will limit how often you wake up to use the bathroom throughout the night.
  • Minimize technology use before bed. Too much light from video screens at bedtime can affect the production of melatonin, giving your body the impression you aren't ready for sleep. The best advice is to stop watching TV or using smartphones and other screen devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime to give your brain a rest and the correct signal that it is time for sleep.

Make positive changes now, for both yourself and your loved ones. As we enter the Christmas season and on into the New Year, take a fresh look at opportunities to recharge yourself.

Scott Wellinger is the co-owner of Senior Helpers in the Lowcountry. swellinger@seniorhelpers.com