Why Seniors Need More Sleep — And How to Get It

by Marie Villeza Health Writer

Are you a senior who is tossing and turning at night? Sleep can often be hard to come by, but a lack of sleep can have devastating effects on your health and wellness. So, how does sleep help seniors and how can they get more of it? Keep reading to find out.

Why sleep is important for seniors

Sleep is a simple act that has a ton of health benefits. Aside from helping you feel more energized, getting a good night’s sleep can reduce inflammation, curb depression, and even help you maintain a healthy weight. Those are all good reasons for seniors to work on their sleep. However, some studies also suggest a link between a lack of healthy sleep and an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Neurologists have found that adults who fail to get enough rapid eye movements (REM) sleep at night are putting themselves in danger of developing memory and cognitive issues as they age. So, how can you improve your health by improving your sleep?

You may want to start with a new bed

Sleeping on an old, worn-out mattress could be the source of many senior sleep problems.Some signs that you need to begin with a new mattress? Look for worn-out areas that are dipping or damaged, heavy stains, or exposed springs. If you’ve had your mattress for more than a decade, it’s time to shop since sleep needs can change as you age. When shopping for a new mattress, take your time finding one that fits your body and your needs. The best mattresses have sufficient support to maintain neutral spine alignment, enough contouring to relieve pressure points (think heels, hips, shoulders), and some means for regulating body temperature. Once you have a new mattress picked out, think about buying soft sheets, cozy blankets, and supportive pillows to really help your bed come together.

Then work on your nighttime routine

If you like to doze off watching television, you may want to think about changing your bedtime routine. Studies show that exposure to screens before bed can lead to less-deep sleep, so switch off electronics during the evening hours. If you do need to use your phone or laptop, try adjusting the settings to lower, warmer light. Instead of TV, try incorporating some relaxing habits into your nighttime routine. A warm bath a couple of hours before bed is a wonderful way to relax tense muscles and lower your body temperature in preparation for sleep. If your mind is restless, you can practice a quick meditation or even write in your journal. Journaling can be a simple, effective anxiety reducer, and can have other benefits for seniors, too.

Watch what you eat and do during the day

Your diet can definitely affect your sleep, too. If you are consuming caffeine via coffee and other foods, you may want to limit those items to morning hours. Fatty or spicy foods can cause issues as well, especially for seniors. These foods can lead to an upset stomach and heartburn, which can make it difficult to relax. You should also try timing your meals and snacks so that they have little impact on your sleep. Avoid eating heavy meals before your bedtime and give your body a few hours to break down food before you try to wind down. If you do get a little hungry before bed, try selecting a snack that can actually improve your ability to fall asleep. Finally, don’t forget to exercise. Working out on a daily basis helps your body and mind prepare for sleep. A morning workout may enhance your sleep even more, and can have other big benefits too.

Not getting enough sleep is never fun, but simple changes may provide some relief. If the tips above don’t improve your sleep, it may be time to ask your doctor for help. Getting the sleep you need is essential for your health and happiness, so take whatever steps you need to improve your sleep routine.

Marie Villeza
Meet Our Writer
Marie Villeza

Marie Villeza developed the organization she named ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice. She hopes to fight ageism by connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. Ms. Villeza is positive that the information she collects and shares will help her audience make the best decisions for their lives in an ever-changing world.