Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Naturally
One of the most common issues with aging is chronic insomnia. This becomes even more challenging when you have limited mobility. Being a life-long insomniac myself, I can only imagine how debilitating this would be for the elderly. Did you know that older adults need as much sleep as younger adults? It’s true even though many of us thought that the opposite was true.
According to the National Institutes of Health, many seniors aren’t getting the sleep they need. Many (13 percent of men over 65 and 36 percent of women in that age group) find it hard to fall asleep in the first place. And once they do, a lot of older adults discover that they don’t sleep as soundly or as deeply as they used to.
There is actually a scientific reason for this. As we get older, both the quality and type of sleep changes. There are 2 main types of sleep…REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep. We are in a dream state with REM and we actually sleep the soundest during non-REM sleep.
That gets completely turned around as we age and seniors spend more time in the nonrestorative REM sleep mode. That’s why many seniors complain about feeling chronically tired. In addition, many older people get up during the night to go to the bathroom. Even the best of us are wobbly when we wake up.
Let’s look at some of the causes of insomnia because they also change as we age
- Phase Advance: With age, the brain’s internal clock shifts to an earlier sleep cycle.
- Polypharmacy: An increase in the number of medications can create side effects and a greater chance for drug interactions that can interrupt sleep.
- Depression: Depression is more common in the elderly, and insomnia is often a symptom. (Conversely, insomnia can also cause depression.)
- Pain: Arthritis, spinal stenosis, neuropathy or other conditions causing physical pain or discomfort.
- Frequent Urination: Waking up to go to the bathroom throughout the night.
- Movement and Sleep Disorders: Restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and others conditions are linked to insomnia.
- Neurodegenerative Disorders: Dementia, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Parkinsons and other like disorders can cause insomnia.
Tips for getting a good night sleep naturally
Many physicians are reticent about prescribing sleep medication to seniors, especially to those with limited mobility because they feel it could increase their risk of falling. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Here are 11 ideas that really work well:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Try to avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening, as it may keep you awake at night.
- Develop a bedtime routine. Take time to relax before bedtime each night. Some people watch television, read a book, listen to soothing music, or soak in a warm bath.
- Keep your bedroom dark, on the cooler side, and as quiet as possible. I have a sound machine in my clock with very relaxing sounds, such as the ocean, a waterfall, etc…It works very well.
- Have a comfortable mattress, and a pillow you like. My mother purchased a Tempur-Pedic mattress because she liked the memory foam and the fact that the bed was lower. It was easier for her to get up and down during the night.
- Exercise at regular times each day but not within 3 hours of your bedtime. Every little bit helps!
- Get outside in the sunlight each day. It does wonders for you and helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Have a light snack close to bedtime…oatmeal is always a good choice. Bananas and yogurt also help promote sleep.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day. I recent dramatically cut down on both caffeine and sugar and I actually am sleeping better.
- Drink fewer beverages at night. Waking up to go to the bathroom and turning on a bright light can break up your sleep and potentially cause a fall.
- Avoid alcohol to help you sleep. It has the opposite effect and can act as a stimulant.
- Don’t use your tablet / iPad right before you go to bed. The light from the device stimulates your brain activity.
Here are some additional safety tips
- Keep a telephone with emergency phone numbers by your bed.
- Have a medical alert device on you just in case of emergency.
- Have a good lamp within reach that turns on easily. For example, a touch lamp works well.
- Put a glass of water next to the bed in case you wake up thirsty.
- Use nightlights in the bathroom and hallway. There are even toilet nightlights!
- Remove area rugs so you won’t trip if you get out of bed in the middle of the night.
- Have a little snack on your bed stand so you don’t have to go wandering in the middle of the night.
- Keep a small flashlight nearby in case of an emergency.
There are also a number of completely natural sleep methods
Meditation: So often, nighttime is when we feel our stress or anxiety level increase. This is a major cause of insomnia. Our minds are racing and we just can’t settle down to get a good nights sleep. Meditation has been proven to both help with sleep issues, as well as pain management. You get a two for one deal!
Here is the basic technique: It’s all about the breathing
- Get into bed
- Turn off you cell, TV or any other distractions.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on your breathing in and out.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose and hold it for 10 seconds.
- Breathe out completely through your mouth.
- Repeat – continue to focus on breathing naturally.
- If your mind wanders, gently focus your thoughts back to your breathing.
- Even just doing as little as 10 minutes a night can help.
There are also some excellent guided meditations for sleep…you can download these free apps onto your tablet or smartphone. I personally like the following ones…they include guided meditations on several topics, including sleep.
I encourage you to try some of these natural sleep remedies. If you have found other methods that work well for you or a loved one…please share with the community.
Cheers to a great night sleep!
Related Article: The Best Exercises for Seniors