Getting a Good Night’s Sleep: Tips for Older Adults

Sleep is essential to life, but sometimes older adults find it becomes harder to get all the rest they need. Waking up tired, feeling exhausted half-way through the day, and needing to nap just to get to bedtime again may signal it’s time to take a look at ways to sleep better every night. Although everyone is different, here are expert tips for sleeping well.

Tips for older adults for getting a good night’s sleep

Tip #1 – Stay on a sleep schedule

There is something to be said for being a creature of habit and one of the healthiest habits for older adults is to stay on a sleep schedule. Start with the number of hours needed to feel refreshed (generally 7-9) and set a schedule for waking up every morning (preferably without an alarm clock) and going to bed each night at the same time. The key, according to the article, “How to fix your sleep schedule – sleep expert advice on the simplest ways to reset,” is to be consistent. Some older adults are night owls and prefer to go to bed later while others are early birds who enjoy getting up early. Of course, there will always be exceptions, like an early morning appointment or staying up later than normal with friends, but by quickly reestablishing the sleep schedule these deviations won’t have a lasting impact.

Tip #2 – Create a bedtime routine

Another tip for great sleep is to follow a bedtime routine every night. Just as when raising kids, having a light bedtime snack, taking a warm bath, reading a book, and doing the same thing every night sets the stage for a good night’s sleep. In fact, according to the article, “Health Benefits of Having a Routine” sticking to routines in general can not only improve sleep, but also help with stress management, improve diet and increase the likelihood of getting enough exercise as well. Also consider avoiding alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and electronics as part of the routine to increase the probability of a restful night. For more ways to make a bedtime routine work, check out the article, “Bedtime Routines for Adults.”

Tip #3 – Exercise regularly

Numerous studies have shown that one of the best ways for older adults to improve sleep is to get enough exercise, which the article, “How Exercise Affects Your Sleep” notes can be as effective as prescription sleep medications.

The best place for older adults to exercise is outdoors in natural sunlight but even indoor exercise can help relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, common foes of quality sleep. Another benefit is that exercise also increases the sleep drive, which according to the article, “Sleep Pressure: Homeostatic Sleep Drive,” is the cycle that builds during waking hours then decreases when sleeping. The more exercise, the stronger the sleep drive which may mean longer and deeper sleep.

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Tip #4 – Minimize napping

Who doesn’t love the luxury of an afternoon nap? The chance to just relax and rest is one of the best aspects of being retired and many older adults relish the opportunity. While napping may seem like the perfect way to refresh, there are some rules to follow so napping doesn’t interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. According to the article, “Napping: Do’s and don’ts for healthy adults,” short naps of 10-20 minutes are optimum and napping before 3 p.m. will be less likely to impact sleep later. Older adults should also rise slowly from a nap to avoid feeling groggy or disoriented.

Tip #5 – Create a restful environment

The bedroom should be a place dedicated to sleep so creating a restful environment can help. Start with shades and/or drapes that block light and incorporate colors that are peaceful and soothing. For lighting, use lower watt bulbs and fixtures and lamps with dimmer switches so light can be easily adjusted. Bedrooms should also be clutter-free zones that feel restful, not stimulating. Adding scents like from fresh-cut flowers or a scent diffuser can also encourage relaxation. More great bedroom fixes are available in article, “Create a Relaxing Bedroom.”

Tip #6 – Consult a physician

Sometimes, no matter what steps are taken, sleep continues to be elusive. When this is the case, consult a physician to get to the root of the problem. Among the many problems are pain, insomnia, medications, movement disorders like restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and incontinence with frequent urination. Learn more in the article, “When to Call a Doctor About Sleep Disorders.”

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