Visiting Angels, Barrington Blog

Tips, Tricks and Info About How Healthy Sleep Supports Healthy Aging

senior citizen sleepingWhat is sleep architecture and how does it impact how you sleep at night and how you feel the next day? According to the National Sleep Foundation, the overall picture of the patterns that rest follows over the course of the night is sleep architecture. This includes the process for falling asleep, the light and dreamless phase of sleep and the deep REM phase. The National Sleep Foundation explains: “The sleep cycle is repeated several times during the night and although total sleep time tends to remain constant, older people spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep.”

Because their sleep architecture has changed, seniors may have trouble getting sound sleep and staying asleep through the night. They may find themselves feeling restless, struggling to fall asleep or waking during the night. This can be frustrating, confusing and hard to resolve, especially when the issue is a new one that wasn’t part of your sleep architecture earlier in life.

March 15 is World Sleep Day, which means the entire month is a good time to think about the quality of the rest you get. If you’re a parent, grandparent or caregiver, you’ve probably spent plenty of time thinking about someone else’s sleep architecture. It’s time to shine that analytical light on your own sleep habits, so that you can earn the rest you need and deserve. Here’s what you need to know.

The need for zzzz’s

Seniors require just as much sleep as all adults. Seniors’ bodies work hard, and they require a sound daily reprieve. The Sleep Foundation reports: “It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age. In fact, research demonstrates that our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood.”

It can be harder to get those precious hours of quality sleep for a variety of reasons. Medications are a common culprit. Check with your doctors and let them know about all the meds that you’re taking. Get medical advice about how medications may impact your sleep architecture.

The Sleep Foundation explains that sleep apnea, snoring, restless leg syndrome and acid reflux can also disrupt sleep patterns. These are all serious issues that disrupt sleep.

The quality of the sleep you routinely achieve has tremendous implications for your physical and psychological health; make it your priority to achieve a good sleep routine.

Be protective of your slumber

If you’ve enacted a caregiving role, either by raising a child or caring for an ill friend or family member, you know that sleep is a cornerstone of wellness and well-being. Give your own sleep the same respect and regard your sleep routine with the same protective care.

Practice good sleep hygiene. This means, being careful about caffeine, sugar and food consumption near bedtime. The Sleep Foundation advises: “Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime… Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime.”

The foundation also advises sticking to a regular preparation routine each evening - a routine wind down that helps you relax. This may include taking a warm bath, reading, meditating, praying, etc. The foundation advises that prep should happen outside the bedroom, and that the bed be reserved only for sleeping. This way, you won’t be spending too much time in your bed before you go to sleep each night.

Use tools that help you

Once you recognize that you may have some additional obstacles to sleep, find solutions that work for you. Buy new pillows, or a quilt that is a better fit for your changing needs. If you’re struggling with reflux, for example, see if raising your bed at the head might prove a more comfortable fit for you. If you feel anxious at night, see if a weighted blanket could be helpful. The price is coming down and you can find them at stores like Target and Walmart. Talk with your doctor about melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement that may give you the extra help you need.

Keep working through your issues, with the input of your medical professionals, until you get the results you need.

While it’s true that you change as you age, that doesn’t mean you should have to settle for a poor night of rest - too much is at stake. A poor sleep feels bad and it’s bad for your health. You deserve better.

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