“Up with the chickens!” My grandmother used to proclaim that announcement each morning as she climbed out from under her quilt and headed to her garden to sneak in a row or two of hoeing before breakfast. Aging parents may battle sleepless nights and early morning risings and senior sleep deprivation can contribute to forgetfulness, moodiness, accidents or clumsiness.
Although seniors may require less sleep than in earlier years, plenty of rest is still important so that we maintain energy levels and concentration while warding of sickness. Exactly how much sleep is required varies from person to person. However, a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that older adults, on average, need about 7 ½ hours of sleep each night.
How much sleep aging parents need and how much they actually get may be two different things. If your loved one is having trouble falling asleep or is sleeping restlessly and has no medical problems, such as sleep apnea, that are impacting sleep, there are many things that you can do to try to correct this.
One of the things you can do to encourage better sleeping is to make your loved one’s bedroom more conducive to sleep. Here are some tips on how to accomplish this:
Keep the lights low to discourage senior sleep deprivation
Artificial light disrupts the body’s production of hormones that encourage sleep, so try to use low-watt bulbs in the bedroom when possible. Also, discourage your loved one from watching TV or using the computer during the hour before bed, as the light from these devices, as well as the stimulation they provide, can affect sleep. If the senior in your life requires a night-light, make sure it doesn’t shine directly on his or her face. If outside lights are bright, make sure shades or curtains are drawn, or encourage your loved one to use an eye mask.
Keep it comfy
Is the bedroom too hot or too cold? Regulate the temperature so that it’s “just right. Keep noise to a minimum; if the noise is unavoidable, consider using a “white noise” machine to block out disruptive sounds.
Keep the clock away
Turn the clock face away from the bed. When people can’t sleep and they open their eyes and see just how long they’ve been tossing and turning, they may feel more tense and anxious, which is exactly what they don’t need. Also, if the clock is one with a loud tick, consider replacing it with a quieter digital model.
Keep work away
The bedroom needs to be a place where your loved one sleeps, not works. Keeping distractions out of the bedroom can have a psychological effect that helps aging parents, spouses, and others to more easily fall asleep.