Sleep. It’s one of the few things we absolutely can’t live without, but also something most of us rarely think about and rarely get enough of. According to the National Sleep Foundation, at least 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. These disorders have a myriad of causes, from environmental factors to physical and emotional ailments, but all have one thing in common: they are detrimental to our health and well being. Sleep is important not only for rest, but also for repair, as many body systems undergo a period of restoration during normal sleep. March is National Sleep Awareness Month, the perfect time to implement healthy sleep habits and think about what you can do to get a good night’s rest.
At Senior Lifestyle we know that for seniors, good sleep is especially important. Quality sleep is essential for health, but unfortunately for many seniors, it is difficult to attain. The myth that seniors need less sleep than younger adults is untrue; they simply have more trouble getting the necessary 7 to 9 hours of rest nightly that all adults require to maintain good health. Seniors tend to have more trouble achieving restful sleep, with less deep sleep, more nighttime trips to the bathroom, and a tendency to wake often during the night. Seniors also tend to become drowsy earlier in the evening and wake earlier in the morning than younger adults, a change in sleep pattern that many find difficult to manage.
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Several factors contribute to these interruptions of sleep for older adults, most notably the following:
- Health Conditions
- Chronic and acute illnesses that develop with age can affect the quality of sleep. Disease like arthritis can cause pain that interrupts sleep, while conditions such as diabetes make nighttime bathroom trips more frequent. Good management of health conditions can minimize their effect on quality sleep.
- Medications often accompany the medical conditions experienced by seniors. Older adults are more likely to be taking several medications concurrently, and drugs such as those used to control high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression and anxiety can interfere with quality sleep. Physicians can often mitigate this situation by changing dosage times or even substituting medications for others that don’t cause a lack of sleep.
- Melatonin and growth hormone both important sleep hormones, and unfortunately, as we age, we secrete less of both. Growth hormone causes deep sleep and melatonin regulates the sleep cycle. Without adequate amounts of both hormones, it is more difficult for seniors to fall deeply asleep and stay asleep long enough to reap the benefits of a period of rest. The hormonal changes that accompany menopause also often result in interrupted sleep.
During National Sleep Awareness Month, focus on not only getting enough sleep, but getting quality sleep. If you think lack of sleep is becoming a problem for you, make sure to speak to your physician about what you can do to get the rest you need in order to stay healthy and active. At Senior Lifestyle we know that getting older doesn’t have to mean being tired all the time, and your doctor can often recommend simple lifestyle changes and pre-bedtime routines that will improve your sleep habits as well as your overall sense of well being.