Napping Is Good: 5 Tips for Getting Better Sleep as a Senior
by Karen Weeks
According to the National Sleep Foundation, over 44 percent of older adults experience a symptom of insomnia at least a few times a week. Loss of sleep is often considered a natural part of aging, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t have to resign yourself to sleepless nights once you turn 60. There are many things you can do to help you feel well-rested again, most of which are likely to improve your energy levels and quality of life throughout the day as well as during the night.
Maintaining an active lifestyle in old age comes with a long list of benefits, many of which you will be familiar with such as better cardiovascular health, improved mobility, stronger bones, and boosted immune function, to name a few. But exercise can help you sleep better, too.
This may have something to do with mental health. Regular exercise is linked with lower rates of depression and anxiety, both of which are common causes for insomnia.
Address Your Mental Health
If you do suffer from a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, exercise may not be enough. These illnesses are common in the elderly due to several factors, including isolation, loneliness, fear of death or disease, and sudden boredom. However, they are should not be simply accepted as a consequence of aging.
Talk to your doctor about your treatment options, which could involve therapy and medication. Also, make an effort to meet new people and fill your schedule with plenty of social interaction.
Prepare Your Body for Sleep
It’s difficult to fall asleep if you don’t allow yourself to wind down properly. There are various things you can do to signal to your body that it’s time to sleep, such as taking a hot bath, dimming the lights, limiting late-night snacks, and avoiding electronics before bed. Create a bedtime routine that makes you feel relaxed, and make sure to keep your schedule consistent -- this allows your circadian rhythm to function at its best.
Have a Nap
Napping is often considered the best way to make sure you won’t be sleepy at night, but that’s not quite the case. Researchers investigated several benefits of napping, including better focus and an improvement in mood and performance. However, naps should not be longer than 30 minutes: the longer the nap, the higher the risk of falling into a deep sleep, making it very hard for you to wake up. As long as you are able to keep your naps short and sweet, they will make you feel better without impacting your quality of sleep later at night.
Go See Your Doctor
Your difficulty sleeping could be a result of easily solved environmental or lifestyle factors, but if all else fails, you should consult a doctor. There are various sleep disorders that could be keeping you up at night, such as sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, and RLS. Certain tests, items, and services for sleeping disorders are covered by Medicare, so you may not have to worry about costs depending on your issues and type of coverage.
Like many health problems associated with aging, poor sleep in your senior years is more of a result of lifestyle changes than an inevitable decline in well-being. And the great thing about lifestyle changes is that you can change them again. You can make a huge difference by simply building up a few new healthy habits. Even if it turns out your sleeping problems are medical, you will have greatly boosted your overall quality of life by taking control of your health and practicing self-care.