Our sleep patterns are affected by time changes and with daylight savings approaching, it’s generally believed that “losing” an hour in the spring is harder to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall. Seniors often have a particularly difficult time getting a good night’s sleep, which is only complicated by daylight savings. This can be attributed to a host of factors. Our bodies produce less melatonin as we age, seniors often develop disruptive napping patterns that alter their sleep cycle, and many report troubles falling asleep.
Lack of sleep can lead to a number of problems for seniors, including a depressed mood, increased risk of falls, trouble paying attention and decreased memory functioning. Although our sleep patterns change as we get older, difficulty sleeping is not a normal part of the aging process.
It is recommended that older adults sleep for an average of 7-9 hours a night. Here are a few tips to assist you in achieving this:
- Spend time outdoors; exposure to sunlight for at least two hours a day will help to regulate your melatonin and sleep-wake cycles. Open your blinds and sit by the window as you read a book.
- Limit napping during the day and exercise regularly. If you are too sedentary, you may never feel sleepy, or feel sleepy all of the time.
- Limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you are consuming, especially before bedtime.
- Listen to your body and establish a regular sleep routine. Seniors tend to feel more tired earlier in the evening, and tend to rise earlier in the morning. Alter your sleep routine to go to bed when you feel tired. This will ensure you are adjusting to your body’s natural rhythm and sleep needs.
- Talk with your doctors about any prescription medications you are taking. Side effects may include drowsiness or decreased energy levels, which can affect your sleep cycles.
- Limit excessive light and noise in your sleep environment. Make sure your bedroom is dark, comfortable and pleasant to prepare you for bed.
Whenever you experience patterns of sleeplessness, contact your doctor or a sleep specialist, who can assist you in altering your patterns to ensure a better night’s sleep.
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