PLYMOUTH — Many things change as people get older. Something that isn't necessarily expected is sleep. In fact, 46 percent of adults 65 and older have trouble falling asleep and sleeping well through the night on a regular basis.

Adults over the age of 65 should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. But getting quality sleep at night can be difficult for seniors.

  • During aging, the body makes less of the chemicals and hormones that help people sleep well.
  • Some seniors develop sensitivity to environmental factors affecting sleep, including noise and temperature.
  • The parts of the brain that control sleep are affected by conditions such as Parkinson's disease or stroke.
  • Arthritis and other conditions can also play a role in sleep quality due to chronic pain.

In addition, seniors may fall asleep earlier than usual, wake up in the middle of the night, or suffer from insomnia – all of which can negatively impact quality of daily life. In addition to affecting mood, lack of sleep can lead to issues with memory and an increased risk of falling

  • Inadequate rest affects mood. Not getting a full night of sleep can cause irritability, stress, problems with concentration, and mood swings. Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to cognitive issues and depression.
  • When seniors don’t sleep, their bodies suffer. Headaches, body aches and weakness can sometimes be attributed to lack of sleep.
  • Being tired can contribute to illness. When tired, an older adult’s immune system doesn’t perform as well, opening the door to illness and infection. Some studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to heart problems, diabetes and it has even been associated with an increase in risk of breast cancer.

Seniors having a hard time sleeping can get help from their doctor. There are also things to try at home to help ensure a restful night’s sleep:

  • Having a sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night, and getting up at the same time every morning, helps a person adjust to a natural sleep rhythm. 
  • Being mindful about eating habits. Alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine and a diet high in sugar can all cause sleep issues. Eating and drinking close to bedtime can also be a problem for some – rather than having a full meal before bed, it’s better to have a light snack or warm milk.
  • Creating an individualized sleep plan. Changing nighttime routines, and daily activities, can have an impact on sleep. It’s important for people to find out what works for them and create a schedule that they stick to Consistency is key. Some people find that more physical activity during the day helps them sleep better. Others find that napping during the day makes it harder to sleep at night, while some aren’t affected. Meditation before bed, a warm bath or reading time at night can all be part of a sleep plan, if they help. 

Comfort Keepers Can Help

For seniors that want to change their daily routine and create a schedule for better sleep, caregivers with Comfort Keepers can help. They can assist with scheduling and routine, increased activity during the day, physician-prescribed exercise and diet plans and can provide transportation to scheduled appointments. Better sleep leads to more happiness during the day, helping clients live joyful lives, regardless of age or acuity.

To learn more about in-home care services, contact Comfort Keepers at 603-536-6060, or visit comfortkeepers.com.

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