Why is Sleep So Important for Seniors?

Senior Living Holiday BluesA good night’s sleep is important to people of all ages, but seniors may be especially sensitive to the ill effects of poor sleeping. Healthy sleep patterns are particularly important to seniors, because sound sleep is essential to maintaining the ability to concentrate and form memory, to repair physical damage, to keep your immune system strong and to prevent mood changes.
Chronic poor sleep contributes to many of the major health problems that seniors face; cardiovascular disease, weight problems, balance and mobility difficulties can all be made worse by sleep difficulty. At the same time, it is a natural fact that aging changes sleep patterns. Seniors become sleepy earlier, and wake up earlier, they are more likely to have physical problems like arthritis that make sleeping difficult and seniors undergo natural changes in sleep patterns.
If you or a senior loved one is having sleep difficulty, it is important to treat this as a serious problem. The professional staff in senior assisted living facilities, memory care living facilities and even in-home senior care workers should be alert to the symptoms of sleep deprivation.  You or your senior loved one may not immediately connect lack of sufficient sleep with indicators like forgetfulness, poor concentration, lack of motivation and even physical symptoms like arrhythmias or poor balance. A primary care doctor may be able to identify physical problems, like pain from arthritis that can interfere with sleep. Some medications can also disturb sleeping patterns and these can be adjusted.
As a senior yourself, a family member providing in-home senior care or a staff member in senior assisted living or memory care living, there are numerous changes you can make to improve sleeping patterns. Often, they involve little expense and no medical intervention. Here are some suggestions.
Get some form of movement exercise every day. This can be as simple as a brisk walk. If a senior exercise class is available, it can be a great help. Numerous studies have confirmed that people of all ages, including seniors, improve sleep patterns after physically active days. A busy, engaged day full of activity may actually be the best sleep aid.
Adjust your “time-lifestyle. The habits we acquire over a lifetime may not fit a senior lifestyle. It is natural for seniors to become sleepy at an earlier hour; if you have become accustomed to watching the late-late show and try to continue this into senior years, it may cause problems. We are fortunate in this day of on-demand viewing; sources like Netflix, Hulu and others enable a senior to view late-night shows any time of day.
Try to develop a nighttime routine that does not involve doing mentally taxing or upsetting tasks after sunset. Even routine tasks like balancing a checkbook or writing a thank you note may be better done in the morning or afternoon. Develop a nighttime routine that doesn’t encourage worry or anxiety.
Limit napping. There is certainly nothing wrong with taking a short snooze during the day, but avoid extended periods of sleep when the sun is shining. Long naps can make falling asleep at night difficult, meaning that the senior will wake up feeling tired. This sets up a cycle of disturbed and difficult sleep, often lacking the deep sleep phase that is critical to health.
OurSeniors.net tries to be an all-things-senior resource for seniors and their loved ones as well. You can read a more detailed discussion of sleep issues affecting seniors in our recent blog article, “Better Sleep for Seniors.” Both the Ourseniors.net website and the senior living magazine, OurSeniors.net Magazine are full of informative and useful content like, Better Sleep for Seniors. Our network of highly-qualified professional service providers, the Senior Transition Pro Team can help with any phase of senior life transition.
Every day, look for the OurSeniors.net Seal of Approval – that symbol guarantees that the business or service provider you are dealing with has the special knowledge and sensitivity needed to meet seniors’ needs. A full directory of those Approved Vendors can be viewed at the – OurSeniors.net Directory. As always, remember that you can contact an OurSeniors.net Advisor by phone at 866-333-2657 (se habla Español), or by using Contact Us.  Have a great day, and then get a good night’s sleep tonight.

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