Enhancing Senior Well-being through Quality Sleep

Getting adequate and restful sleep is crucial for individuals of all ages, especially for seniors. At Promyse Home Care in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, we recognize the vital role of sleep in supporting physical and mental health. 

Understanding how much sleep seniors need, identifying potential obstacles, and implementing strategies for better sleep can significantly enhance their overall well-being. March 15th is World Sleep Day. Canadian Sleep Society runs a campaign called Sleep On It that offers solutions to deal with sleep disorders and make healthy sleep a public health priority. 

Sleep On It Canada is a great resource for all things pertaining to sleep. They mention that by the end of our lives, we will have spent 1/3 of our time sleeping yet one-third of Canadians sleep fewer hours per night than the recommended number. Sleep is a valuable ally for physical and psychological health as well as for the prevention of health problems. There is still a long way to go to ensure that the need for sleep is recognized by public and health professionals and for it to be considered a critical determinant of health.

How Much Sleep Do Seniors Need?

Despite reduced activity levels, seniors require the same amount of sleep as young adults, even if sleep becomes lighter, more fragmented or reduced as we age, the recommended sleep duration is seven to eight hours. This may include daytime sleep (naps) to compensate for poorer sleep quality, shorter nights or shallower sleep.

Seniors have an advanced sleep phase (instead of a delayed sleep phase like during adolescence) with earlier bedtimes and wake-up times than before. Having a regular sleep schedule that respects this natural rhythm is the way to enjoy  fulfilling days. 

Insomnia and Sleep Challenges for Seniors

Seniors often face difficulties falling and staying asleep, impacting the quality of restorative REM sleep. Factors contributing to sleep troubles include health issues, medications, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, arthritis, frequent urination, and sleep apnea.

Promoting Better Sleep

To combat sleep issues and ensure restful nights, consider the following:

Maintain a regular sleep schedule

Consistency is key here. Maintaining a fixed bedtime and wake up time (plus or minus 30-45 minutes) even on weekends helps to synchronize the biological clock of sleep. Keeping that regular wake schedule becomes especially important after a bad night because sleeping in can disturb the subsequent night’s sleep. The best sleep schedule is one that suits your needs according to your age, chronotype (early bird or night owl), sleeper type (short, intermediate, long), and external demands. When you cannot stay awake or need to sleep during the day, your body is sending you the signal that you did not sleep enough during the night. Knowing and respecting what kind of sleeper you are is crucial and will help you get the most out of your day.

When it comes to sleep needs, try to not compare yourself too much to others and listen to your needs! They may differ from the people around you, and that is all natural.

Senior sleeping comfortably

Create a consistent bedtime routine. 

Reserving 30-60 minutes before bed to perform a nightly routine can help in preparing your mind and body to sleep. A consistent bedtime routine looks different for everyone but it usually includes a series of unwinding activities such as putting on pajamas, brushing your teeth, reading a book, listening to calming music, etc. Try to stay outside the bedroom until you are ready to sleep.

Create a Comfortable Haven for Sleep.

Control light, noise, and physical comfort in the sleeping environment. The optimal bedroom environment is one that is dark, quiet, and cold (approximately 18 degrees Celsius). Heavy curtains, eye masks, ear plugs, or white noise, for example, can help create that perfect nest. Comfortable bedding, pillows, and a mattress are also essentials.

Establish a positive connection between your bed and sleep.

If you sit in bed eating, reading, watching television, working, or even just thinking, your brain will associate the bed with wakefulness. The goal is to create a new connection between the bed and the act of sleeping – not with being awake. To do so, the bedroom must be reserved for sleeping ONLY. Here are some additional ground rules to follow:

  • Go to bed only when sleepy.
  • If you don’t sleep after approximately 20 minutes, get out of the bedroom, do a non-stimulating activity in calming low light, and only return to bed when sleepy. 
  • Do not look at the clock as this causes unnecessary feelings of pressure and anxiety.
Good Sleep habits affect the mood of our seniors

Monitor Behavior

Keep a regular meal schedule and avoid eating late at night – especially heavy, fatty, or spicy meals. Try to opt for light food or a small snack before bed. 

The consumption of stimulants such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, and nicotine can lead to difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. Although alcohol can make you fall asleep faster, it generally leads to shorter and lighter sleep.

Incorporate Physical Activity

Engage in regular, light exercise to promote deeper and more fulfilling sleep. 30 minutes of physical activity every day is one of the best ways to stay healthy and to get better and deeper sleep. It is preferable to exercise during the daytime (bonus points if you get some light exposure in doing so) and to finish exercising at least 2 hours before bedtime.

Sleeping during the day

Short 10-20-minute naps can make you feel energized without having a significant negative impact on your overnight sleep. On the other hand, longer naps can leave you feeling sleepier during the day and can make your next nighttime sleep more challenging. If you must nap, try to keep it no longer than 20 minutes and do it preferably in the early afternoon (between 1pm and 3pm).

Seniors enjoying yoga and relaxation

Address Emotional Well-being

Take time to relax. Manage anxiety, depression, or worries to create a calm mindset conducive to sleep. The daily practice of relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation can be a great way to unwind! Setting aside some time during the day (not near bedtime) to reflect and write down your thoughts, worries, and to-dos is another great way to free your mind in time for sleep.

Identify the Source

Investigate potential culprits like medication side-effects or underlying health problems.

Improving Quality of Life Through Better Sleep

By understanding and addressing factors inhibiting sleep, seniors can experience not only improved rest but also enhanced overall well-being and a higher quality of life.

Contact our Nurse today to discuss any sleep concerns and learn how home care services can support you or your loved one in Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge. Reach us at 519-208-2000. 

A good night’s sleep is just a call away!

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