Whether you’re an early riser or a chronic nighthawk, we all have to sleep sometime — for a third of our lives, in fact. Though science is still unraveling the complexities of why our bodies need sleep, there’s no questioning its importance. Healthy sleep habits are crucial for maintaining good mental health. Chronic sleep loss can also lead to several physical ailments such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.
But not all sleep is created equal. You’ve probably woken up on at least a couple of mornings when, despite technically being unconscious all night, you still feel bleary, cranky, and unrested. For some people, this is sadly common. The National Sleep Foundation found that at least 40 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder.
Unfortunately, seniors tend to suffer from sleep issues the most. In fact, half of all people over the age of 65 report struggling with sleep issues. Sleep Awareness Week, happening each year in March, is an excellent opportunity for seniors to pay attention to their sleep cycles and create an action plan to sleep better. After all, if you spend a third of your life doing something, you might as well make sure you’re doing it right!
The Myths About Sleep
Since we still don’t fully understand why our bodies need sleep, myths and misinformation abound. It’s a pretty common misconception that seniors don’t need to sleep as much as other adults. The fact is, all adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to stay healthy and happy.
Despite this biological process’s importance, sleep is often treated like a tiresome chore to put off as long as possible. For this reason, many people don’t seek out help when they’re having trouble sleeping. The high pressures of school and toxic work cultures have normalized the idea that getting too little sleep is a badge of honor in our stressful modern lives. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. When you don’t get enough sleep, your focus, energy, and memory retention all decrease. Only by understanding the importance of catching some z’s can we overcome the ways our culture has normalized (and even glorified) insufficient sleep.
What is true is that seniors tend to have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. There are many reasons for this shift in behavior. Hormones are one possible culprit. Melatonin helps the brain regulate its sleep cycle, and as we get older, we don’t produce as much of it. Many seniors take multiple prescriptions, some of which can interfere with sleep. Lastly, health conditions such as chronic pain or sleep apnea can make it difficult to fall asleep and to feel rested when you wake up. However, just because seniors face more challenges when they punch the pillow each night doesn’t mean they need sleep any less than others.
The Dangers of Too Little Sleep
Virtually everyone has experienced the drawbacks of a bad night’s sleep at least a few times in their lives. Sometimes we even forgo sleep willingly. After all, who hasn’t pulled an all-nighter to finish an assignment or stayed out with friends into the wee hours of the morning? Nights like those leave us feeling fuzzy-headed, grumpy, forgetful, and tense. But the effects of even one night without enough sleep go even deeper. Poor sleep habits also weakens immunity, reduces balance, and increases your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and weight gain.
If the effects of one bad night’s sleep are harmful, they only compound the longer you go without sleeping well. Over time extended sleep deprivation causes hypertension, depression, memory loss, heart problems, and more.
Of course, knowing that you need to sleep better and actually doing it are entirely separate issues. Getting a good night’s sleep can seem like a total fluke. It’s not like sleep is a skill that you can hone through practice. However, just because sleep is an unconscious process doesn’t mean we have no control over it; there’s a lot you can do to improve your sleep habits and wake up rested each day.
Home Caregivers Help Develop Better Sleep Habits
There are many ways you can improve your sleep habits, but making significant life changes on your own can be a challenge. Luckily there are many ways in which an in-home caregiver can help you get a better night’s sleep.
A caregiver can help you customize your space to get the best sleep possible, from hanging blackout curtains to adjusting the thermostat to your preferred nightly temperature. If you drink coffee or tea, a caregiver can help you track your caffeine intake and prepare caffeine-free beverages starting at least six hours before bedtime. Watching TV before bed is a surefire way to disrupt your circadian rhythms, so a caregiver can help you brainstorm other activities to transition to before bed and make sure you stick to those new habits. Because exercise can have a positive effect on your sleep cycle, a caregiver can also drive you to recreation activities or accompany you on walks around your neighborhood.
If your everyday routines are part of what’s impacting your sleep, it’s not easy to break out of those cycles. An in-home caregiver is an advocate on your side to help you achieve your goals on a day-to-day basis, whether they involve eating well, sleeping better, or just living life to the fullest.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.