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Sleep Tips for Seniors: Strategies for Improving Sleep as You Age

Healthy Living | December 12, 2023

A elderly man resting in peace after reading about sleep tips for seniors.

Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep is a common issue that can impact you at any stage in life. For seniors, however, there are additional factors that can alter their sleep patterns as they age. Many older adults struggle with maintaining a healthy sleep schedule which can cause numerous health concerns and a lower overall quality of life.

Fortunately, there are proven ways to overcome these age-related sleep problems so that you can once again experience a good night’s rest. Let’s take a closer look at how sleep changes with age and what steps you can start taking today to improve your sleep habits.

How Sleep Changes with Age

About 50% of seniors have found that their sleep schedule has diminished over time. From more frequent nighttime disturbances to an increased struggle to fall asleep, you may have already noticed that your ability to get a good night’s rest is not what it once was.

Researchers investigated this common phenomenon and found that sleep quality does indeed diminish with age. Older adults tend to take longer to fall asleep, wake up more frequently throughout the night, and spend more time throughout the day napping. Most importantly, seniors spend less time in deep, restorative sleep, which helps with bone and muscle growth and repair, strengthens the immune system and brain functioning.

This difference in sleep quantity and quality can cause seniors to feel more irritable, exhausted, and experience memory issues. 

While there is no single cause to these changing habits, this common problem facing seniors can be a result of several different age-related factors, including:

  • Health conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnea
  • Shifting sleep schedules
  • Medications that impact sleep
  • Decreased amount of REM sleep
  • Increased daytime napping
  • Social isolation and depression

Sleep Tips for Older Adults

While some of the changes to sleep patterns are unavoidable as you age, certain habits have been proven to improve sleep in older adults.

Maintain a Healthy Diet and Exercise Routine

Staying active as you age is not only critical to your overall health, but your quality of sleep as well. One of the easiest ways to impact the quality of your sleep is by making positive changes to your diet and exercise habits. Older adults who exercise and eat a healthy diet regularly fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and report better quality of sleep. 

When it comes to your diet, it’s best to eat balanced and nutritious meals throughout the day and avoid excessive liquids, caffeine, and alcohol before bed. As tempting as that cup of coffee or glass of wine sounds, it’s best to avoid it later in the day to help your body wind down. Excessive liquids, sugars, and refined carbs can also cause you to wake up during the night, so cutting down on all three can make a big difference.

Exercise is very important to a good night’s rest as well. Regular exercise and physical activity not only helps mobility, but helps to burn excess energy that might be keeping you awake. Moderate exercise for about 30 minutes, four times a week has been shown to make a significant impact on your sleep habits.

Avoid Bedroom Distractions

The bright lights from your television of smartphone can make it more challenging to fall asleep. Avoiding these common bedroom distractions can help your body fall into a deep sleep easier. We recommend keeping the television and other electronics out of the bedroom – reserving the space for sleep and relaxation.

Another tip to keep in mind is to avoid using your bedroom for hobbies or work to avoid associating the space with those activities. By separating all these activities from your bedroom, your brain is more likely to feel ready to sleep just from entering your room.

Avoid Naps

The clock hits 2:00 PM and you can barely keep your eyes open. A nap might sound like a great idea in this instance, but it can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Napping too frequently or late in the day messes with your general sleep schedule – causing you to feel restless and awake at night.

If you feel tired during the middle of the day, go outside for a walk or try having a light, healthy snack such as a cup of strawberries or a banana. By swapping these healthier habits in place of a nap, you can encourage your body to stay energized until bedtime.

Create a Bedtime Routine

A bedtime routine is essential to developing and maintaining better sleep habits. To start, it’s critical to find the right time to go to bed every night. Change your bedtime to whatever time you notice yourself feeling tired at. This may mean going to sleep earlier than you are used to but there is no reason to fight your body’s natural rhythm.

When preparing for bed, find activities to keep you comfortable and relaxed. Many seniors enjoy taking a warm bath, reading, listening to music, or meditating. Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool, and make sure your bed is comfortable. If you have sleep problems due to snoring or other noises, white noise machines and earplugs can be helpful.

By building a routine, your body can better anticipate when you should be tired – helping you fall asleep and maintain a deeper sleep with ease.

Make the Most of Your Golden Years

Sleep problems are common for older adults, but you don’t have to accept them as a part of life. By learning how what you do during the day affects how you sleep at night, you can make simple changes that make it easier to fall—and stay—asleep.

Better sleep habits are only part of a more fulfilling lifestyle. Ready to take the next step toward a better retirement? National Church Residences is here to help. We take an individual approach to senior care, offering quality senior living options and long-term care services for seniors to make the most of their golden years. Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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National Church Residences does not discriminate against individuals based on race, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, payment source, or any other class protected by applicable law, whether in employment or its activities, programs, or services. National Church Residences also does not discriminate based on age, except as required by government entitlements or permitted by applicable law for seniors.