Sleep is a vital mechanism, regardless of your age. It has the ability to restore energy levels and heal both physical and cognitive damage. So how can it help your loved-ones in their later years?
At every age, sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge. Despite the many benefits of sleep, getting a good night’s sleep with age becomes difficult, as many older adults find it difficult to get to sleep, or stay asleep.
AgeUK recommends that a regular sleeping pattern of 7.5 to 9 hours per night is recommended, to help people function at their best. However, as we get older, a number of factors combine and make this harder to achieve.
With the right information and support, you can take steps towards helping your loved-one gain the amount of rest they need.
Common reasons for poor sleep in older people
There are various reasons as to why an older person may have trouble sleeping.
The most notable change is a decrease in the levels of melatonin – the hormone that governs our sleeping patterns – within our bodies. Older people are also more likely to be woken up by health complaints or minor disturbances, and often have trouble falling asleep at the desired time.
Some conditions, such as heartburn, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease, can all have a negative impact on sleep. Some conditions may also cause a person to need to use the toilet more frequently throughout the night. If this is unusual for your loved one, contact their GP to rule out any underlying medical issues.
Some medications may also have the side effect of keeping people awake at night. If you believe this is the case for yourself or a loved one, talk to your GP.
Old age and sleep – the importance of sleep for the older generation?
There are many benefits of sleep for older people; it can improve both overall health and quality of life. By encouraging your loved one to speak with a healthcare professional to better regulate their sleeping pattern, you may be able to help them achieve:
- Increased alertness during waking hours
- Enhanced memory and attention span
- Reduced medication usage
- Reduced symptoms of depression
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Regulated appetite
- Reduced risk of falling
- A happier, more engaged lifestyle
How to promote good sleep for older people
Disrupted sleep in older people often leads to them spending longer in bed, or sleeping at intervals throughout the day, to catch up. With such important benefits of sleep, such as aiding memory and boosting the immune system, it is important to help your older loved ones to sleep better.
By talking to a health professional with a view to removing or mitigating the causes of disrupted sleep, you can take tangible steps towards improving your loved-one’s sleeping pattern and overall quality of life. Common causes of disrupted sleep include:
- Stress or trauma
- Illness/physical pain (including arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, acid reflux and Alzheimer’s)
There are also a number of ways you can encourage positive changes, to help minimise disrupted sleep for older people, including:
- Promoting an active and regular daily routine that includes both physical and social activities
- Ensuring the bedroom is quiet, dark and cool (removing or restricting audible or visual distractions)
- Encouraging a balanced nutritional intake (including protein-rich foods with tryptophan, such as white meat, dairy or nuts/seeds)
- Optimising melatonin levels by getting adequate sunlight, using low wattage bulbs (where safe) and switching off all non-backlit screens one hour before bed
- Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, waking and going to bed at the same times each day
- Limiting use of stimulants (caffeine, sugar or alcohol)
- Trying a soothing pre-bedtime routine, such as bathing or reading
How The Good Care Group Can Help
Managing an older person’s sleeping pattern takes time and a certain level of expertise. The Good Care Group can help guide the process for your loved one, using specialist techniques and extensive experience, to make beneficial, safe and healthy decisions that will help regulate the person’s sleep routine.
Our friendly and professional carers can provide waking or sleeping overnight care, including help with toileting, support with medication administration and mobilising in bed, so your loved one can be safe and comfortable during twilight hours.
By ensuring a good and regular daytime routine, an active lifestyle, as well as employing the expertise of a nutritionist, The Good Care Group can aid your loved one’s sleep pattern and improve their quality of life.