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.

Age & Sleeplessness

Have you noticed that as you age, genuine, deep sleep is more & more difficult to attain?  Many people blame this sleeplessness on the aging process, but is it right to do so?  There are also, certainly, many older persons who can sleep well through the night.  So what steps can we take to try to have a good night's rest?

First, ensure that you have been active enough during the day.  As we age and go into retirement or stop working a regular job, it oftentimes gets harder to sleep at night, but not because of any health concerns.  Rather it is because enough energy has not be expended during the day to make us sufficiently tired at night.  Though our minds may refute this argument, the truth is, our bodies NEED certain levels of work or activity throughout the day in order to rest properly at night.  If they do not have that level of activity, they also do not recognize the need for rest.  Try your best to raise your activity level during the day, finding work that's appropriate for you and your abilities at this stage of your life.  Work at it with joy & later enjoy a more restful night's sleep.

Another helpful step that one should take is to establish a regular routine of waking and sleeping.  Sometimes, as we age, our schedules can be thwarted out of boredom.  We find ourselves dozing at various times during the day & not being able to sleep later, or staying up later watching television and sleeping in later in the morning.  Whatever schedule you decide makes you feel best, you should stick with it on a daily basis in order to obtain the most restful night's sleep possible for yourself.  Our sleep patterns are rhythmic & throwing off the rhythm can have adverse effects of our rest at night.

Also, cutting off any screen time in the evenings a couple of hours before sleeping should help to notify your body that it's time to begin winding down to rest.  Choose quieter activities that are not as stimulating, such as crossword puzzles, restful music, reading books, playing solitaire, etc.  Help your body to be able to identify the cut off time from evening activities to sleeping time by establishing a nightly routine.  Soon enough, you will find yourself longing for that time of day & looking forward to the rest that comes with it!

Finally, if you are still having problems sleeping after all of these steps, talk with your doctor about it & see if he/she can suggest any other steps you could take. Melatonin is an option for some people, others need something a little stronger in order to help them set the rhythm of sleep again.  Before you head to the doctor, however, be sure that you've tried everything in your power to re-gain sleep in a natural way.  Your body & mind will thank you for it!

Top