January 22, 2020
If your aging family member isn’t sleeping well, it affects everything around her. She might be used to sleeping badly, which is unfortunate. But that means it’s even more important to figure out how to help her to sleep better.
She May Find Sleep Is Different for Her Now
Sleep and sleep habits change over time and as your senior ages, she experiences sleep differently than she might have when she was younger. Older adults don’t have the same sleep patterns. She might find that she’s sleepier earlier in the evening, but that she gets up earlier, too. Some older adults find that they’re dealing with insomnia now when they never did in the past. Your elderly family member may find it impossible to get to sleep or she falls asleep but can’t stay asleep. All of these are issues.
Sleep Has Physical Benefits Your Senior May Be Missing
The physical benefits of sleep range from helping muscles and joints to recover from the day’s activities to mood regulation and other emotional effects. When your senior isn’t sleeping well, she’s more likely to experience body aches and pains. Her immune system may not be able to keep up with the demands it faces, either. She may find that she’s not necessarily getting sick, but that she doesn’t feel well at all. Small wounds, like bruises or scrapes, may heal much more slowly.
Get a Handle on Her Current Sleep Situation
When you’re trying to fix sleeping issues for your senior, you need to know where she’s starting out. Is she having trouble getting to sleep? Or is the problem more about the quality of sleep she’s getting? Assessing her current sleep hygiene, which is her habit around sleep, can help you figure out what’s going on. She might be getting too little exercise or having caffeine too late in the day. Naps could also be getting in the way of sleeping at night.
Develop a Plan for Implementing Changes
Once you figure out what you’re up against, you can start making a plan to help your senior and make the changes she needs to make. It’s not easy to shift even small habits around sleep. If your elderly family member needs to make more than a few changes, it might be a good idea to tackle them one at a time. Scaling back screen time before bed might be the first change on your list, for instance, and then you can assess whether she needs to make other changes right away.
When your elderly family member is making big changes, it can help to have someone else on hand to help. Senior care providers can give her a hand with daily activities so that she can focus on getting the rest that she needs.