After a long day, who doesn’t anticipate falling into those soft sheets for a good night’s rest. This well-needed respite can be hard to come by. Nearly half of adults 65 and over report having problems falling asleep or staying asleep through the night. While it’s normal for older people to sleep less and wake more frequently, getting a full night’s sleep, regardless of age, is important for overall health and well-being.
In addition to age-related physical changes and ailments, nighttime can bring with it a whole host of fears. Issues that may not be of concern during the day can be magnified at night. Many worry what will happen if they fall or need help and can’t reach anyone. Some fear for their general safety in a home alone. These fears increase stress and anxiety making sleep impossible. Let’s look at some technology and lifestyle modifications that offer support so older adults can maintain independence and remain at home.
Address Nighttime Fears with Practical Solutions
Falls are the leading cause of injury and death for those 65 and older. To help prevent nighttime falls, use a night light, make sure the path from bed to bathroom or bedroom door is clear, and remove rugs or other trip hazards. If your loved one is prone to falls, consider a fall detection alert device by Medical Guardian or Bay Alarm Medical. A smartwatch such as Garmin fenix 6 or Apple Watch Series 4 or 5 includes fall detection as well as health monitoring options.
For those worried about break-ins, the addition of motion sensor lighting outside the home, extra locks, or an easy-to-use security system may be enough to ease their fears. Check into overnight care options like those offered by Home Instead Senior Care. Having someone around at night can help reduce fears and anxiety.
What You Do During the Day Matters at Night
Sleep is vitally important at all stages of life. According to the American Sleep Association, your body restores itself during sleep, boosting your immune system, consolidating memories, and regenerating cells and tissues. Lack of quality sleep can affect everything from your attention span and cognitive function to your mood and how much and what you eat.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce anxiety at night and promote better sleep.
Get social and stay busy. Filling your days with social activities will make you more tired at night. Mental activities like crosswords, puzzles, reading, or writing letters help stimulate your brain during the day so it’s ready to rest at night.
Exercise. Get moving 30 minutes or more every day.
Create a sleep routine. Keeping yourself on a daily sleep and wake schedule and creating a nightly routine can help reset your internal clock and make falling asleep easier.
Stick to a basic daily schedule. Maintaining a predictable schedule which includes mealtimes, socializing, exercise, and bedtime can reduce confusion and anxiety at night, especially for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Check your medications. Some have stimulants in them which can keep you awake at night. Consult your doctor to see if a different medication or dosage schedule will help.
Turn off electronics. Shut down the TV, iPad, or computer at least 30 minutes before you get into bed.
Eat better. Cut down on sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, pasta, and rice. Stop eating three hours before you go to bed and limit liquids an hour or so before bedtime.
If you’re still having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, talk to your doctor or seek the advice of a counselor.
Signs your loved one may be having problems at night:
• More irritable during the day
• Taking frequent naps throughout the day
• Complaints of being tired
• Trouble with recall or memory
• General forgetfulness not associated with a disease
• Voices fears about being alone at night
• Aggressive behavior
By Kym Voorhees Raque