According to WebMD.com, it is untrue that seniors need less sleep than younger adults. Even though getting to sleep and staying asleep becomes more difficult as we grow older, adults of all ages need between seven and a half and nine hours of sleep per night. In the elderly, this rest is vital for everything from improving concentration and memory to preventing disease.
Whether you are a caregiver or trying to encourage a loved one to get more sleep, there are several ways to set the stage for a good night’s rest.
- Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule, including weekends. The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a “circadian clock” in the brain and the body’s need to balance both sleep time and wake time. A regular waking time in the morning strengthens the circadian function and can help with sleep onset at night.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress, or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, or remain asleep. Avoid arousing activities before bedtime like working, paying bills, engaging in competitive games, or family problem-solving.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. Check the room for noise or other distractions, including a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring, light, and a dry or hot environment. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise,” humidifiers, fans, and other devices.
- Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and pillows. The mattress one has been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy—which is about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens and objects that might cause a slip or a fall if having to get up during the night.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep. It is best to take work materials, computers, and televisions out of the sleeping environment. If a particular activity or item is associated with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from the bedtime routine. For example, if looking at a bedroom clock causes anxiety about how much time remains before getting up, move the clock out of sight.
Caregivers, don’t forget that sleep is just as important for you to maintain the best possible level of care. If you are unable to maintain your own health and well-being, your ability to care becomes nonexistent. Click here to download a pdf with other tips to prevent caregiver burnout. If you want to know how to support your caregiver The Huffington Post has some tips.