A good night’s sleep can be hard to come by even during the best of times, especially for older adults. Insomnia and aging seem to go hand-in-hand. Some seniors may have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Research shows that from sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome, as much as 30% of the population suffers from insomnia. As concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic linger, some seniors are also experiencing anxiety that may disrupt sleep or cause insomnia.
When it comes to solving sleep issues, people may simply give up on getting a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, it’s not something you should just try to live with. There are many negative health consequences associated with a lack of quality sleep, including:
- Weakened immune system that puts you at higher risk for colds and viruses
- Poor nutrition, which often contributes to unintended weight gain and greater incidences of diabetes
- Change in disposition (quick to anger or easily tearful) because the body doesn’t have enough time to refresh itself
- Sedentary lifestyle, which is believed to be as dangerous as smoking
- Increased chance of experiencing falls, which are a leading cause of disability
6 Ways to Beat Insomnia as You Age
- Exercise every day: When you feel tired, you are more likely to develop bad habits that lead to a sedentary lifestyle. And a lack of exercise is linked to poor sleep. It’s something of a vicious cycle. By staying active throughout the day, you’ll likely sleep better at night. Walking, chair yoga, swimming, and gardening benefit the body, mind, and spirit.
- Limit caffeine: Being overcaffeinated is another cycle that is easy to fall into when you are tired. While caffeinated beverages might give you a temporary pop of energy, more than a cup or two a day actually exacerbates sleep problems. Limiting your intake of candy, tea, soda, and even hot cocoa may improve sleep quality.
- Create a sleep space: Creating a dark, peaceful sleep environment might also help you beat insomnia. Turn off the television, smart phone, and other devices at least one hour before bedtime. Turn down the thermostat. If you can’t relax when it’s too quiet, try using a white noise machine or a fan.
- Be consistent: Sleep specialists often suggest a strict sleep schedule. Have set times to wake up and go to bed. An irregular sleep schedule interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythms. If you have to, set an alarm so you rise at a similar time each day, including on weekends.
- Skip the alcohol: People often think a glass or two of wine at bedtime will help them relax and unwind, making it easier to sleep. In reality, alcohol disrupts melatonin in the body. That can wreak havoc on your sleep/wake cycles. It also worsens snoring and sleep apnea, both of which contribute to poor sleep.
- See your doctor: Despite your best efforts at overcoming insomnia, sleep may remain elusive. Sometimes an undiagnosed medical condition is the cause. You may want to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They might be able to figure out what the problem is or refer you to a specialist for a sleep study.
Sleep is just one factor that contributes to a healthy lifestyle for older adults. To stay updated on the latest news on wellness and aging, we encourage you to bookmark our blog, The Senior Community Lifestyle, and visit often. We talk about issues ranging from nutrition and exercise to friendships and volunteering!