Everyone feels better after a restful night’s sleep. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the opportunity to enjoy it, as many people, particularly the elderly, suffer from sleep deprivation, or insomnia.
The quality of sleep is as important as quantity for refreshing the body. While sleeping, our body enters into NREM (non-rapid-eye-movement) sleep and goes through four stages, beginning with light sleep, progressing to deeper sleep. During the fifth stage, known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, breathing becomes irregular and shallow, our eyes move rapidly, limb muscles become immobile, and dreaming may occur. The entire NREM-REM cycle lasts about 90-110 minutes and usually, takes place 4-5 times during normal sleep.
Research shows that seniors tend to sleep lighter and for shorter spans, spending less time in REM sleep. This change is attributed to the aging process, but can also result from other health problems. Whatever the cause, disruptions in the sleep cycle may lead to insomnia for seniors.
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, including seniors. However, as we age, advanced sleep phase syndrome sets in, causing the body’s internal clock to adjust to earlier bed and wakeup times. Some seniors continue to stay up late, out of habit, which leads to sleep deprivation. About 50% of adults 60 and older experience insomnia, according to the National Institute of Health.
Advantages of a good night’s sleep:
A good night’s sleep will strengthen your brain and helps curb inflammation, which can help to avoid heart disease, stroke, arthritis and premature aging. It is even credited with weight loss – dieters who are well rested lost more fat (56% of their fat loss) according to a University of Chicago study.
Senior living facilities often have to deal with insomnia in their residents and may need to be treated by a doctor.
Here are some tips that may help beat insomnia:
- Limit water and other drinks after dinner. Too many drinks will cause frequent urination, and may make it hard to fall asleep again.
- Take a warm bath before bedtime.
- Avoid any kind of stimulation before bedtime, such as alcohol, caffeine, exercise, or exciting movies.
- Take a nap early in the day. However, please note that naps affect everyone differently. For some people, a 10- to 20-minute nap can be refreshing. For many people however, a late afternoon nap can decrease the brain’s sleep drive. That can make it even harder to fall asleep at night.