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Insomnia & the Elderly

All of us have experienced periods in our lives when it's either difficult to go to sleep or to stay asleep.  These are quite common when our bodies are going through changes.  But what if these bouts are not just for a limited time?  What if the disturbed sleep goes on for months or even years?  This should not be a common occurrence, but unfortunately it is, and as people age their lighter sleep distruptions can become worse & cause health problems to increase.  It's important to nip the problem in the bud & get to the source of the problem before it ruins our health.  Here are some things to watch for & things to do before going to a physician.

  1. Establish a regular routine. Decide on hours that you'd like to sleep at night.  Try to stick as closely to them as you can by going to bed at the same time & setting an alarm to wake at the same time each day.  Our bodies have certain rhythms that they fall into. When those are disrupted, even slightly, it can affect our sleep.
  2. Make sure you're active during the day. As we age it can be even more tempting to lounge throughout the day, but it is best to maintain a regular & active routine that will allow our bodies to be worn out a bit by the time bedtime rolls around.  If you notice that you're sleeping during the day more than you'd like, actively search for things that you can do & schedule them in so you're not lulled to sleep by inactivity or boredom.
  3. Turn off devices earlier. Choose a time 1-2 hours before your bedtime that you will turn off things like TVs, computers & phones so that your body reckognizes that it's time to wind down.
  4. Instead of TV, try establishing a new bedtime routine. You may wish to listen to soothing music, take a relaxing bath, or read a book.  Whatever it is, do it regularly enough that your body knows it's almost time for rest & starts to look forward to it.
  5. Diffuse oils that are soothing. Many people choose lavendar & have great success , but choose something that is soothing to you.  If you do not own a diffuser, consider mixing the oil with distilled water in a spray bottle & spray your linens with the scent to send your brain the message that it's time to unwind.
  6. Keep a notebook handy. We've all experienced the times when we are trying our best to sleep, but our brain will not stop spinning.  Instead of fretting that you can't focus on sleep, take time to write down what you're thinking of & some possible solutions.
  7. Stretch before bed. Try to stretch out stressed muscles before heading to bed. Use heat if necessary to loosen knots.
  8. Try melatonin. If your doctor is okay with it, try taking melatonin to aid in the sleep process.  It works well for most people if they are on it for long enough. Expect that it might take 2-3 months of taking it & also having a regular routine in place before you'll see a huge change, but you will begin to see one.

 

We owe it to ourselves & to our bodies to pay attention to what they need.  Sleep is a large part of health, as it is the time of the day when our bodies pull back and try to heal themselves.  If we are not allowing ourselves to truly rest, our health will suffer, and, by default, the rest of our lives will also suffer.

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