As we age, our mind and body undergo certain emotional and physiological changes. Some of them are simply inevitable results of the years behind us, while others are the results of our good or bad habits. Either way, many of these changes have certain effects on the quality of sleep.
From sleep disturbances, which reportedly increase by 50% in the senior population, to altered wake-sleep dynamics, to full-scale insomnia, numerous baby boomers today suffer from a variety of sleep disorders.
In this article, we’ll go through some of the most common causes of sleep deterioration and their potential solutions.
Lack of physical activity
For the majority of people, becoming more physically active is often the first step in tackling sleep issues.
A rule of thumb is that we tend to do the opposite as we reach a certain age. Some people don’t move enough due to health problems. Others simply don’t have the willpower to make exercise a part of their regular routine.
If you keep the eating habits you had when you used to go to work, you’ll increase the likelihood of experiencing sleep issues. Once you retire, your body won’t need as much energy as before. As a result, you might not be tired enough to fall asleep in the evening. Likewise, overeating in the evening will cause certain digestive disorders for most adults, which may lead to bad sleep.
In line with recommendations prescribed by the World Health Organization, older adults should spend at least 150 minutes per week doing moderate aerobic activities (walking, jogging, swimming, cycling). Walking instead of going by car or using public transportation is recommended, as well. Depending on your physical condition and (potential) health issues, feel free to adapt these tips to your needs and abilities, as well as to consult a doctor about the best possible forms of exercise for you.
Increasing the level of your physical activity will not only help improve the quality of your sleep, but your general wellbeing as well.
Health issues and side effects of medications
Statistically speaking, older adults have more health problems than younger ones. Some of these issues cause serious sleep disorders.
A large number of adults experiencing sleep problems suffer from a sort of sleep apnea. This disorder is characterized by breathing difficulties during sleep. The most common cause is sot tissue blocking the back part of the throat.
Also known as obstructive sleep apnea, this condition can cause snoring (lighter symptoms) or completely stop the passage of air for a moment or two (in more severe cases). As a result, people suffering from this problem wake up a few times a night. This affects the quality of their sleep and their life as a whole. This condition can occur due to obesity or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
If you experience similar difficulties, visit a specialist to deal with the problem with medications or via surgery.
When it comes to medications, some of them can cause sleeping disorders, as well. For instance, beta-blockers (medications that reduce blood pressure levels) and many other medicines may affect sleep. In case you take any of them, talk to your doctor to find alternatives that won’t impair the quality of your sleep.
So far, we’ve explained that a lack of physical activity and tangible health issues are frequent causes of sleep problems for older adults. But there’s another, far more ambiguous yet equally common cause of long, sleepless nights – emotional unrest.
Many baby boomers today are retired or approaching retirement, and many of them have elderly parents to take care of. Even though the boomer generation has lived through some of the most prosperous decades of the 20thcentury, it’s increasingly difficult to find peace in this day and age, even in retirement. Their kids and (for some) grandkids are in the middle of this financial and social crisis, so they have a lot on their minds. Many older adults still help their descendants, both as financial and moral support.
All these worries can cause full-scale insomnia, which is a major health risk. So, when somebody starts feeling so anxious that they can barely sleep at all, they’ve probably developed some sort of clinical insomnia. In that case, it’s essential to react on time. The sooner people react and seek professional help, the sooner they will manage to treat the issue in the best possible way. Since it’s difficult to eliminate emotional unrest at once, older adults suffering from such extreme sleep disorders need to equip themselves with patience and focus on the end goal – getting a night of long, uninterrupted sleep.
In addition to psychological and medical treatments, the emotional causes of insomnia can be alleviated through calming literature and music. So, get back to your favorite books or put on the music that soothes your soul.
Our lives change with our age. And even though aging brings certain difficulties, we can prevent many of them by acting both actively and proactively. In line with that, it’s possible to ensure a good night’s sleep with adequate physical activity, regular medical check-ups, and mental peace. Sometimes it won’t be easy to cover all these bases, but if you stay persistent in improving your sleep, you’ll soon see the results of your efforts.