Sufficient and restful sleep is important for being and feeling fit and vital. But, with increasing age falling asleep and sleeping through experience a change. Therefore, for elder people it is not always easy to have an adequate amount of sleep. As soon as you notice, that lack of sleep is influencing your daily activity it is time to look for help.
About 70 % of all adults suffer under sleep disturbances or a no longer restful sleep. This also applies to the group of people 65+ who occasionally or regularly complain about disturbed sleep. Most of the time, they have difficulties to fall asleep resp. to sleep through. Out of this reason, elder people tend to take sleeping pills either available over the counter but also only on prescription. A study proves that some of these sleeping pills show no effect resp. might even increase sleep disturbances.
The sleep of elder people is very light – sometimes a simple car honk or a barking dog interrupt their sleep. On the other hand, elder people tend to doze off quickly, for example while reading the paper or in front of the TV. For a long time it was thought that elder people overall need less sleep than young people. This is scientifically not yet fully established. One thing is certain: the sleep architecture of old people changes. Falling asleep and sleeping through becomes harder, phases of deep sleep decrease. But, since the daily routine of elder people most of the time is free from work-related and fix appointments it often is easier for them to compensate arisen sleep debts with a nap. A powernap at lunchtime is advisable for people of all ages. To not further increase existing or create problems to fall asleep it is advisable to limit the power nap to 20 minutes and to sleep before 3 p.m.
Longer phases to fall asleep, fewer deep sleep and nightly arousals
With increasing age, the phase to fall asleep prolongs, the phase of deep sleep – which is so important for physical recreation – reduces, light sleep increases. Hence, the sleep of elder people is easier disturbed, arousals become more frequent. Here’s a comparison: younger people experience about five arousals per night, people in the age of 60+ up to 150. Often, you can’t remember the short moments of wakefulness but still don’t feel well rested in the next morning and have the feeling of having had an uneasy sleep.
Be careful with sleeping pills
Besides sleeping through, falling asleep becomes harder. For many, the fastest and seemingly simplest solution is taking sleeping pills. Most people even fall asleep faster and tend to sleep the night through when taking pills but only very few actually feel well rested the morning after. Because, sleeping pills not only disturb the sensitive course of the single sleeping phases. Besides alcohol or age, sleeping pills themselves might be cause for waking up too early. A further trigger for feeling unrested during the day.
The following tips are helpful for improving sleeping quality and making sleep more restful:
- Stay physically active in older age, too, preferably in fresh air! Numerous studies revealed that sufficient exercise helps to regulate and to support sleep.
- Always go to bed and get up in the morning at about the same time. Get up right after waking up in the morning instead of pressing the snooze button for several times.
- Especially when you are suffering under disturbances to fall asleep and to sleep through be careful to limit your siesta to 20 minutes.
- Easily digestible foods eaten three to four hours before going to bed are perfect for your dinner. In the evening, avoid caffeine-containing beverages and alcohol.
- Regularly practiced rituals like an evening walk, listening to relaxing music, reading or relaxation exercises let you come to rest and set your organism to “sleeping”.
- A soothing herbal tea has a relaxing effect.
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping and for sex. All other activities like reading, eating or watching TV should be done in other rooms.
- Good ventilation of your bedroom and a temperature between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius are perfect for a good night’s sleep.
- Don’t place any electronic devices in your bedroom (electromagnetic fields).