The average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and trouble falling asleep could mean insomnia. Insomnia is a condition that makes falling asleep or staying asleep difficult, according to the Sleep Foundation. While insomnia affects people of all ages, this condition can be especially detrimental to seniors, so it’s important to treat insomnia or see your doctor if you think you may be at risk.
Here are some ways seniors can overcome insomnia.
Recognize the Symptoms
If you suffer from insomnia, you will likely experience the following symptoms, or combination of symptoms:
- Taking 30 to 45 minutes to fall asleep each night
- Waking up frequently throughout the night
- Waking up and being unable to fall back to sleep
- Waking up tired, with low functionality during normal waking hours
- Sleep deprivation
- Impaired memory
Insomnia can become chronic if left untreated, and can result in depression, accidents from sleep deprivation and difficulty concentrating when awake. Once you recognize the symptoms, you can begin to work on self-treatment methods. If they don’t help, then it’s time to consult your doctor.
Stick to Regular Sleeping and Waking Cycles
Start by sticking to regular sleep patterns. Even if you have trouble falling asleep at night, let yourself be tired the next day — you may wear yourself down enough that you won’t have trouble getting the shut-eye you need the next night. Don’t allow yourself to sleep too much the next day, as that will cause you to fall into an abnormal sleep/wake cycle and throw off your body’s internal clock.
Check Your Medications
Some medications may cause insomnia, from over-the-counter cold medicines to prescription diuretics. If you are experiencing insomnia, check the labels of your medicines, or contact your pharmacist or physician to find out if what you’re taking could be contributing to your sleeplessness. Your doctor can work with you to alter your dosage amounts if insomnia is becoming a chronic problem.
Know What Activities to Avoid
As it gets closer to bedtime, be sure to stay away from certain activities that can cause you to have difficulty falling asleep. Consuming coffee, soda, nicotine or other stimulants can make you feel awake. And although alcohol has a sedative effect that initially promotes sleep, it inhibits REM and actually fragments sleep. Limit daytime naps to allow enough waking hours before bedtime. Heavy meals and large quantities of liquid too close to bedtime can cause you to have to get up during the night, or can cause discomfort that makes it difficult to fall asleep. Other activities that can evoke anxiety, such as scary movies or upsetting television programs, should not be viewed too close to bedtime. Cease all exercise four hours before you plan to go to bed.
Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
Rather than partake in activities that can keep you up, do things that promote relaxation to prepare you for a restful night’s sleep. Take a warm bath, sip a hot cup of tea or listen to calming music. Deep breathing can help you acquire a sense of calmness that can help you slip into a good sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark, warm and quiet enough for you to get rest.
Know When to Talk to a Doctor
Certain health issues can cause pain during the night, or frequent urination, both of which can cause a person to lose sleep and make it difficult to fall asleep. An enlarged prostate in men and incontinence in women are often the cause. Other medical conditions relating to the heart, arthritis, menopause and even cancer can all contribute to sleep loss. It’s important to get checked by your doctor and discuss your insomnia to determine the cause or causes.
For more tips on common issues seniors experience, download our guide, Aging in Place: A Popular Trend for a New Generation of Seniors.