Getting older can be hard on your body and mind. As you age, the quality of your sleep will decline. You’ll have more difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting a good night’s rest. This leads to fatigue and poor health in general. There are many things that seniors can do to improve their sleep habits and techniques for dealing with common sleeping problems like insomnia and restless legs syndrome. This blog post will explore some ways seniors can get better sleep each night are.
Your Sleep Changes as You Age
As we age, the quality of our sleep decreases. This means that it takes more time to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. The first sign of this change is a decrease in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) periods, which are essential for memory consolidation, among other things.
This also causes us to wake up earlier than usual because you’re usually dreaming on and off all night long during these REM cycles. These dreams can be so vivid that even if they don’t awaken you when they happen, your brain still has trouble settling back down into deep sleep afterward – causing morning grogginess under any circumstance.
This is not only a consequence of getting older but it’s also affected by the many lifestyle changes that come with aging. In other words, alcohol intake before bed can reduce your sleep quality dramatically (the more you drink, the less time spent in deep REM). The same applies to caffeine consumption and daytime napping.
Some medications taken for chronic pain or anxiety are common culprits as well – they wake up our brains too much at night when we need them most! And don’t forget about shift work-related circadian rhythm disruption, either. All these things combined lead to seniors sleeping poorly during their later years.
The Sleep Cycle
The sleep cycle is a repeating pattern of stages that our body goes through when we are asleep. To get the optimum amount of sleep, these cycles must occur uninterruptedly. Unfortunately, as people age, their natural circadian rhythm begins slowing down, and consequently, so does this process. Our sleep cycle has the following stages:
Stage 01: The Preparation Stage
This stage is the beginning of our sleep cycle. It usually lasts between five to fifteen minutes and enables us to prepare mentally. The first few times when a person sleeps, they typically won’t enter into deep stages of REM sleep. Still, as their brains adjust to sleeping patterns over time, they will gradually start entering these phases more regularly.
It marks the end of one complete sleep cycle. When this happens, it means that approximately ninety minutes have passed since we initially got in bed.
Stage 02: NREM Stage 1
This stage is also called the onset of sleep. When we first start to fall asleep, this stage will occur. It usually takes about five minutes for our brainwaves to slow down.
After roughly 20-30 minutes in bed, one’s breathing and heart rate will begin slowing down as well. This may signify that you are entering deep REM sleep stages, which sometimes causes people to awaken suddenly.
During this time in your cycle, it can take up to an hour or more before you reach total unconsciousness. The last few moments of Stage 02 include returning from light non-REM (NREM) sleep back into more delicate NREM slumber and then finally achieving an actual REM state where dreams happen most often.
Stage 03: NREM Stage 2
Stage 03 is a stage of sleep that happens most often in the latter half of our sleeping hours. REM stands for rapid eye movement, and this stage occurs when we are dreaming. The first time you enter REM, it will likely be within 20-30 minutes after falling asleep.
REM itself can last from five to 15 minutes at a time; although some people may experience as little as three or four periods while others could have up to 30 different episodes throughout the night. This means they don’t always happen consecutively.
During your dreams, your breathing becomes shallow and quick, which sends oxygen levels down significantly. For that reason, many experts recommend waking someone during their REM cycle if they seem to be drowning or need help with other issues.
Stage 04: REM sleep Stage
The REM stage is the fourth and final phase of sleep. This stage occurs when we are dreaming. A sign that your body has entered this state can be seen by shallow breathing and quick eye movements. People spend up to 15 minutes in this cycle at a time, with some people experiencing as little as three or four periods while others could have up to 30 different episodes throughout the night. It’s important to note that these cycles do not occur consecutively, which means you may wake during one but fall asleep without entering another for a while.
Common Sleep Issues in Seniors:
You’ve probably had trouble sleeping at one point or another in your life, but it can be even more complicated when you get older. Older people have more problems with insomnia than younger people do. That’s why we created this guide on the most common issues that cause seniors to have trouble sleeping at night.
Irregular Sleep Patterns
Older people usually go to bed late and rise early. This is why they typically have trouble sleeping during the night, leading to more chronic sleep problems like insomnia or that affect their day-to-day life.
One of the reasons for this is that seniors have a slower release of melatonin, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep at night. When they do sleep well, they usually get better quality and restful sleep than during the daytime hours – but even then, it can be interrupted by noises or other people’s activities (elderly often live with others).
Older adults also tend to wake up briefly throughout the night due to fragmented REM cycles in connection with decreased levels of serotonin production. This increases as you age because your body produces less and less serotonin over time.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is another common sleep issue in seniors. It’s characterized by unpleasant sensations like tingling, prickling, or creeping feelings in the legs, making it challenging to stay still and fall asleep at night.
It usually starts as an intermittent problem but can worsen over time; this condition worsens with age because RLS symptoms are often related to other health problems such as iron deficiency, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
Temperature regulation is also an issue in seniors. It’s a common symptom of menopause and the natural aging process, which occurs more often with age.
Certain medications may also increase your risk for problems regulating temperature. It can be hard to stay cool at night if you don’t have enough blankets or air conditioning or cannot sleep on your back because of arthritis pain.
A fan blowing on you might help regulate your body temperature, but a hot bath before bedtime might work better. However, make sure not to get too cold during this time either! In addition to these symptoms, other factors such as lack of exercise and inadequate diet can aggravate sleeping difficulties in older adults.
Related: The Best Temperature for Sleep
Sleep apnea is a condition in which the person has difficulty breathing during sleep. This happens because their airway collapses and blocks airflow.
People with obstructive sleep apnea may snore loudly or stop breathing for periods, sometimes as long as 30 seconds or more.
This can cause excessive daytime fatigue-even when you get enough hours of sleep at night.
Frequent Need to Use the RestroomMany seniors has a condition called nocturia, which means they get up to use the bathroom more than twice per night. This can happen because of age-related changes in bladder function.
It’s important not to drink too much fluid before bedtime, as it will only lead to frequent trips to the toilet. Older people sometimes produce less urine at night (less ADH production), making them need to urinate during the night even if they don’t drink that many fluids.
Tips for Better Sleep for Elders:
We all know that sleep is essential to our well-being and happiness, but it can be hard to get enough quality shut-eye. Let’s see these many great tips on how seniors can improve their sleep habits and get better rest at night.
- If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor and figure out what keeps you up at night. Your physician might be able to suggest a treatment plan or medication that will help with the issue.
- Consider taking a nap during the day if sleep isn’t happening when it’s supposed to happen at night. Napping can give you an energy boost as well as promote better sleep later in the evening.
- Try not to eat anything too close to bedtime because food may take longer than usual for your body to break down overnight, resulting in indigestion and discomfort while trying to fall asleep. You don’t want uncomfortable symptoms interrupting your slumber! If nighttime snacking becomes an issue, try small portions of high-quality protein to help with muscle maintenance and repair.
- It’s also important not to exercise or drink too much caffeine in the evening because it can lead to insomnia. Exercise releases natural endorphins that promote relaxation, but don’t overdo it, so you’re tired of bedtime! Just do a little gentle stretching before sleeping if you need some mild activity after sitting all day at work.
- Eliminate distractions such as TV and electronics from your bedroom area–they may have been what was keeping you awake during the night anyway! Try reading instead of watching shows; it doesn’t matter what time this is done because reading won’t disrupt your body clock like other activities will. If you have a hard time concentrating enough to read, try listening to an audiobook.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark–this will signal the body that it’s time for sleep! Consider using black-out curtains or shades, so there is no light pollution at night. Keeping the room free of noise in the evening can also help with getting better quality sleep.
- Consider taking a warm bath or shower before bedtime to help relax your muscles and body.
Bonus: Have a look at our Bedtime Calculator to know your Sleep.
FAQs related to Senior’s Sleep
What is the safest sleep aid for seniors?
The safest sleep aid for seniors is usually a mild sedative. Before taking any medication, it’s important to discuss your concerns with your doctor and review the possible side effects of different medicines. However, sometimes prescribed drugs are necessary to correct something that can’t be fixed naturally or make changes in one’s lifestyle, like exercising more.
Why do seniors have trouble sleeping?
Seniors have trouble sleeping for many reasons. There are plenty of factors such as depression, stress, and chronic pain that can cause seniors to lose sleep or wake up frequently at night.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, seniors are at increased risk of sleeplessness because they often experience chronic pain and depression. Despite this commonality among older adults, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for sleep disorders that work with every senior citizen’s unique needs. That said, many experts agree that a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in helping seniors get better sleep quality. From exercising regularly to eating right and managing stress levels throughout the day, these tips should help anyone who wants to improve their quality of rest as they age. The best way to get better sleep is by following a few simple steps. Hope this article helped!