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The days may be shorter right now, but darker evenings do not necessarily mean sleep comes more easily. The Centers for Disease Control report that nearly ⅓ of adults report they get less than the recommended seven or more hours each night. While it may seem like sleep is a luxury, getting enough rest can make or break your overall health.
Adults over the age of 60 are especially vulnerable to physical and emotional health consequences caused by lack of sleep, including Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and even obesity. Here’s what you need to know about keeping yourself and your aging loved one, as healthy as possible.
How Much Sleep Do Seniors Need?
The Centers for Disease Control recommends seniors over the age of 60 get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. While this number may seem attainable at first glance, sleep disturbances caused by medication side effects, pain, or cognitive decline can make falling asleep and staying asleep difficult for most older adults.
Sleep can be elusive for older adults, especially those living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. As the disease progresses, seniors can have trouble regulating their sleep patterns, and their natural circadian rhythm can evaporate. This often translates into too much sleeping during the day and not enough at nighttime. Unfortunately, sleeping too much during the day can cause increased isolation from peers, which leads to the disease progressing even faster. It’s a vicious cycle that begins with the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep during the nighttime hours.
Dangers of Sleep Disruptions
Older adults, whether they have dementia or not, face serious health consequences due to insomnia or other sleep disruptions. In fact, a recent study published in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found a link between insomnia and stroke, as well as between insomnia and heart attacks. Beyond this recent research, there have also been studies demonstrating a lack of consistent sleep leading to obesity, depression, and even anxiety.
How to Get Enough Sleep
You can prevent health problems by making good sleep habits a priority in your life. You can also encourage the older adults in your life to pick up some habits that lead to better sleep as well. Consider any of the following as you start your quest for better sleep:
Consult your loved one’s physician about their sleep disruptions. Decline sleep medications and instead work with the doctor to review current prescriptions to see if there are any that are contra-indicated or that could prevent steady sleep.
Limit napping during the day. Instead, beat afternoon fatigue with movement. Take a walk around the block, try an online yoga class for seniors, or participate in a group exercise class.
Stick to a routine. Wake up at a consistent time and begin getting ready for bed at a consistent time.
Limit too much television or other screen time beginning a few hours before heading to bed. Try reading or listening to music instead.
Get pain under control, especially if your loved one has breakthrough pain that wakes them up at night. Work with your loved one’s doctor to find a pain reduction regimen that could be more practical for sleeping habits.
For seniors living with dementia, encourage meaningful activity during the day to prevent sleeping and focus on a routinized schedule in the evening hours, which will signal the brain to get ready for sleep.
If your loved one is struggling with consistent sleep, you may need additional support or resources. Call the team at Oasis Senior Advisors. Our team has years of experience working in the greater Milwaukee area aging network. We can direct you to options that are best suited for the senior in your life. Call us today to tell us more about your situation.