Why and How Seniors Can get more Sleep
Top 7 Ways Seniors can Get More Sleep and Why they Should (#5 will surprise you!)
Have you ever heard the myth that seniors need less sleep than other age groups? That now that you’re older, having shorter, restless sleeps is to be expected and normal? Both the Center for Disease Control and the National Sleep Institute stand to debunk that rumor.
The CDC defines seven hours as the minimum for all adults. Getting daily sufficient sleep is key for a healthy lifestyle and is identified as one of the top five health behaviors to prevent chronic disease for people of all ages. But as we age, our sleep cycles change and the body respond differently to sleep and seniors do often find themselves having a harder time either falling asleep or staying in a deep, continuous sleep—from a variety of sleep disorders (click here to learn more about those). But a few life habits can help you capture more Zzzs.
1. Find your sleep number
It is defined as medical equipment prescribed by your doctor for use in the home that can withstand repeated use, is used for a medical reason, and has an expected lifetime of at least three years. DME can only be prescribed to you by your doctor, and—depending on the type of equipment—you may be required to either rent it or buy it through Medicare.
2. Create a Routine:
Once you’ve identified the right amount of sleep for you, create a routine that will allow your body to fall into a rhythm to increase your chances of a better night’s sleep. Once you’ve made it, stick to it.
- Going to bed and waking up each morning at the same time—including the weekends—will help to your sleep-wake cycles become consistent, allowing for your body to understand when to be active and when to prepare for sleep.
- Regular and consistent exercise, especially aerobic activities, can promote good sleep, as long as it is not within three hours of your bedtime. Northwestern University studied how aerobic exercise affected middle-aged and older adults diagnosed with insomnia. The study showed that participants who regularly exercised saw dramatic improvement in quality of sleep, reporting fewer depressive symptoms, more energy, and less daytime sleepiness.
- Avoid daytime napping. Studies have shown that naps can increase symptoms linked to insomnia and disrupt your sleep-wake cycles into the night.
3. Create a Sleep Zone
Your bedroom should be the place where you go to relax and sleep. By eliminating other activities that take place in your bedroom, you allow your mind to understand that when you’re there, you should be sleeping. The room should be quiet, dark and cool. Also, find the right mattress and pillow for your preferred sleeping position. Having the right pillow and mattress is key in creating a comfortable sleep zone. Here’s a link that can help you when you are mattress shopping.
4. Limit Liquids Before Bed
Even small amounts can make it harder to stay asleep. Add that to the common bladder problems that face seniors and you get a disturbed sleep. Getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom not only initially disrupts your sleep, but if insomnia troubles you, you may have a trouble getting back to sleep. Make sure to limit liquids in general close to bedtime.
5. Enjoy the Sunshine
Sunlight helps regulate melatonin and your sleeping cycles. Being outside during daylight hours triggers our mind and body into understanding this is when we should be awake. With that in mind, try to get at least two hours of sunlight a day. As always, it is important to use sun protection including sunscreen and proper eyewear when outside.
6. Unwind Before Bed
1. Those same “sunshine triggers” in our brain may get triggered at night by our favorite electronic screens. Turn off your TV and other electronics at an hour before bed—or at the minimum, 30 minutes. Using them before bed can adversely affect your sleep. To learn more, click here.
2. Studies show taking a warm bath before bed allows your body to relax and slow down as you prepare for sleep. The change in temperature from the warm bath to room temperature can also aid in helping you feel tired.
3. Relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing before bed may allow your brain to let go and feel tired.
7. Plan your Dinner
Our diet diet directly affects our sleep.
- Finish your dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime to reduce indigestion.
- Consider your meal: Having large or spicy meals before bedtime can cause issues such as indigestion. High-sugar foods and refined carbs can stimulate your system when you’re trying to reach your full REM cycle.
- Avoid night caps. The alcohol may initially make you feel sleepy, but will metabolize into stimulating sugars as your body digests it.
How your doctor can help:
As always, you will want to consult your physician to see if there an underlying medical reason causing sleep disruption or issues. These may be from a sleep disorder or any prescription or over-the-counter drugs that contribute to sleep disorders. When effects are serious and left untreated, they can take a toll on a person’s health and even put you at risk for cardiovascular disease, headaches, memory loss and depression. Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend behavioral therapies, prescription medications or both, as part of your treatment plan.
How Medicare Plays in
It’s also important to note that Medicare Part B may cover Type I, II, III, and IV sleep tests and devices. To learn more about what is covered, who is eligible, and costs, click here. It’s important to talk to your physician prior to ordering a sleep test. You’ll want to confirm if the sleep study lab accepts Medicare assignment to determine costs for any sleep studies he or she recommends.
Your doctor or insurance provider can help you determine what is covered, but if you think you might be eligible for a sleep study and would like some professional guidance, we’re to help. Customizing a plan to your situation will help you both today and in the future.
How we can help:
Griffin Insurance Solutions is an independent agency that offers plans from 15 different insurers. We understand that each client is a unique individual, and we want to help you find the best plan and the right insurer. We ensure that your options remain flexible so you can use the providers and doctors of your choice. We’ll happily address your questions and concerns and help you find the best plan for you. Contact us today for in-person appointment by email or phone at 919-704-6147 or 800-774-1434