As people move into their senior years, their sleep patterns start to change. This can result in a lack of sleep. Specifically, seniors experience a change in their circadian rhythm sometimes referred to as the body’s clock. They are prone to feeling sleepy early in the evening and wake up in the very early hours of the morning. According to The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, most seniors require about seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to stay healthy and alert. Consider some common reasons why seniors aren’t getting enough sleep and what steps they can take to get more sleep.
A senior’s brain doesn’t create as much melatonin as a younger person’s brain. Melatonin is a hormone that contributes to a person’s ability to fall asleep. In addition, some seniors take prescriptions that can cause loss of sleep as well as trouble falling asleep. Also, a senior can suffer from sleep loss if he or she has to get up to visit the bathroom several times a night. Depression is another factor that can contribute to sleep loss for seniors.
The Consequences of Not Getting Enough Sleep
When seniors don’t get enough sleep they can start to feel fatigued or become forgetful. Unfortunately, a senior’s immune system can grow weaker which leaves the person vulnerable to colds and other illnesses. Not surprisingly, lack of sleep can lead to irritability.
Tips for Seniors Who Need More Sleep
Fortunately, there are steps seniors can take to get more sleep. For one, they should avoid drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that can make it hard to sleep. Also, seniors should not remain awake in bed for more than twenty minutes. It’s a good idea for the person to get up and go to another room to start a peaceful activity such as reading, looking at a photo album or listening to classical music. The senior can return to bed when he or she starts to feel sleepy. Starting an exercise regimen is another good idea. Gentle exercise such as yoga or walking can get rid of nervous energy that prevents some seniors from falling asleep.
Finally, seniors don’t have to accept loss of sleep as an inevitable part of aging. They can take the necessary steps to continue to lead vital, satisfying lives.