Guess author: Karen Weeks
A good night’s sleep is a key component of overall well-being and health. We all know this, as our parents taught us the importance of bedtime and not oversleeping in the morning. We know that children need a great deal of sleep, but as adults, we seem to try to get by with fewer hours as our schedules get progressively more hectic.
Seniors tend to experience less-than-ideal sleep for a variety of reasons. They are often much less busy than they were even just a few years ago, as retirement can create a shock to their routines, but older adults often have trouble sticking to a regular schedule. Some may feel tired earlier in the day and take extended naps, which may end up delaying their evening bedtime. Then, when they finally sleep later at night, they may end up feeling tired in the morning.
In order to maintain optimal health, seniors should focus on having uninterrupted sleep for at least eight hours. Naps can be restorative and helpful, but only when they don’t detract from nightly sleep. Of course, not everyone can sleep soundly through the night. For these older adults, there are several ways to ease back into more regular sleep habits.
Encourage Sleep Through Healthy Living
The ability to sleep is affected by one’s level of exercise and type of diet. Those who work out -- even with mild amounts of low-impact exercise -- experience more even sleep periods. This is because the body is simply tired from the activity. Physical activity drains the body and requires rest for building muscle and improving performance. An overwhelming amount of exercise can create major physical damage, so there needs to be a delicate balance.
Low-impact, sustainable exercise, such as walking, cycling, and swimming, are the best types of workouts to ensure ideal sleep for seniors. These types of exercise are ideal for seniors in general since they help maintain physical health without risking injury.
Diet can also influence sleep. Seniors often eat less regular meals than others, because of isolation or lack of appetite. They may skip meals, opting instead for small, unhealthy snacks. When they do sit down for a meal, they may eat heavily processed convenience foods. Because of these irregular eating patterns, digestion may interfere with sleep.
The types of food and beverages consumed also impact sleep. Caffeine later in the day can keep seniors from falling asleep, but so can sugary drinks. Spicy foods, or snacks eaten later at night, can send digestive systems into overdrive when your body should be slowing down.
It’s also important that your bedroom promotes an atmosphere for healthy sleep. If needed, add some soft lighting, turn off your television before bed, and remove any technology that might distract you from getting sleep. Also, a decluttered and well-organized bedroom (also known as bedroom feng shui) can reduce stress and help you fall asleep easier.
Sleep Follows Mindfulness
Another way to ensure better sleep is to get to know yourself better. Mindfulness through meditation or simple moments of silence can help provide focus. Mediation can be highly structured or simple. However, it’s important to take time to reflect on yourself, your day, and your needs. Sometimes, the mind is racing, and Meditation can help you slow things down.
Meditation is easy. One way to slowly incorporate mindfulness is to take 10 minutes at the end of the day to relax without distraction. Find a quiet area of the house -- a spare room or other simple and decluttered space. Dim the lights, close your eyes, and go through some breathing exercises. Relax, refocus, and prepare for the next day.
Mindfulness benefits seniors in more areas than sleep, helping to encourage an overall healthy lifestyle. When a senior sleeps more regularly, they are more likely to enjoy activities. These, in turn, help a senior tap more deeply into self-knowledge. In a healthy circle, sleep, exercise, diet, and mindfulness result in better senior living.