Many things change as people get older. Something that people don’t expect to change is sleep. In fact, 46% of adults 65 and older have trouble falling asleep on a regular basis.

Studies show that older adults can have less deep sleep, inconsistent sleep cycles and negative health effects if they don’t get a full night of rest.

Sleep is important because:

  • Bad sleep affects mood – Not getting a full night of sleep can cause irritability, stress, problems paying attention, 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 all be attributed to lack of sleep.
  • Bad sleep can affect weight – According to Health Magazine, researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who weren’t well rested lost more muscle mass.
  • Being tired can make a person sick - 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. However, there are a few things they can 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.
  • Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night – Everyone requires a different amount of sleep to feel rested. However, between seven and nine hours is recommended for most adults.
  • 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.

For seniors who want to change their daily routine and create a schedule for better sleep, 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.

For more information about Comfort Keepers, call 603-536-6060, or visit www.comfortkeepers.com/plymouthnh.

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