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The importance of sleep for older people
Sleep is a vital mechanism, regardless of your age. It has the ability to restore energy levels and heal both physical and cognitive damage.
A regular sleeping pattern of 7.5–9 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.
The most notable change is a decrease in the levels of melatonin – the hormone that governs our sleeping patterns – within our bodies. Elderly 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.
With the right information and support, you can take steps towards helping your loved-one gain the amount of rest they need.
What are the benefits of a good night’s sleep?
There are many benefits to a well-regulated sleeping routine; it can improve both overall health and quality of life. By encouraging your loved-one to speak with a healthcare professional and 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 a healthy sleeping pattern
Disrupted sleep often leads to older people spending longer in bed, or sleeping at intervals throughout the day to catch up.
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 action to help minimise your loved-one’s disrupted sleep, 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
Managing an elderly 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.
By ensuring a good and regular day time 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.