It would seem reasonable to think that by the time you reach retirement, and there is no longer a need to set an alarm and stress about the next day of work that sleep would come easy, right?
Well, that is unfortunately not the case for many seniors who struggle with sleep disorders, or have difficulty getting regular, quality sleep.
Extensive research into sleep and its effects, has shown that our sleep patterns tend to transform as we get older. Many older adults find that their sleep patterns become more fragmented and erratic with age. They report having difficulty falling asleep, and once they are able to finally fall asleep, they have trouble staying asleep.
These inconsistent and unpredictable sleep patterns are thought to occur for a variety of reasons, like chronic pain, persisting medical conditions, mental health issues, and an assortment of medications. Conditions of the sleep environment itself can also contribute to poor sleep habits, with things like uncomfortable bed, outside noise, lighting, and other distractions playing a role.
Effects of Poor Sleep
Lack of sleep can have a number of detrimental effects on the body. For one thing, after a night of tossing and turning you are not likely to wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Not enough sleep often results in insufficient energy to get through daily tasks and activities.
Inadequate sleep can also contribute to more serious health conditions like anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and severe illness.
Many times, people that have tremendous difficulty sleeping get frustrated and turn to sleeping pills as a solution. This is not a recommended practice as sleeping pills can come with a number of adverse side effects.
Negative Effects of Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills may offer a quick fix to your sleeping issues, buy will likely end up causing more serious issues in the long run.
Sleeping pills are not meant to be taken for long periods of time. They are prescribed as an interim medication for temporary issues, and not as a long-term solution. After taking sleeping pills for a couple months it can be very difficult to stop, and it can present serious health threats. Pills often just end up making the situation worse.
Taking sleeping pills for an extended period can result in the body building up an immunity against the medication. This often results in the user upping the dosage, which can have fatal effects.
Overuse of sleeping pills can sometimes create a condition of parasomnia, which is characterized by abnormal or unusual behavior of the nervous system while you are sleeping. This can result in sleep walking episodes, or worse, without the person even being aware of it.
Affected sleep can also result in behavioral changes during waking hours, with increased anxiety and erratic behavior.
Sleeping pills are potent hypnotics that can have lingering effects the day after. They can actually have the effect of making you even more tired the next day. Sleeping pills can also have negative effects on focus and concentration.
Prolonged use of sleeping pills can have detrimental effects on memory and cognition. Research indicates that seniors who take sleeping pills are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Healthy Methods to Improve Sleep Quality for Seniors
There are many approaches and practices older adults can engage in to improve consistency and quality of sleep.
Some healthy methods for sleep, may include:
- Social activity
One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to engage in some physical activity throughout the day. This can be as simple as a stroll around the neighborhood, or taking fitness or yoga classes. The more exercise you get, the more likely quality sleep will follow.
A healthy diet goes hand in hand with exercise, helping the muscles recover from exertion. Studies show that diets high in saturated fats and sugars are directly linked with lighter, less restorative sleep. Diets should be focused on fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and quality fish and poultry.
Social outings, and even just social interaction in general, can help stimulate the brain. This is another way to stay active, and is associated with better quality sleep.
Prepare your sleeping area to maximize the potential for sleep. Make sure you have a comfortable place to sleep with no bright lights or outside distractions.
A relaxing bedtime routine can help bring on sleep and establish a healthy sleeping schedule. Once it becomes part of your routine, it is more likely to become a natural trend.