Sleep for Life - Tips for Quality Sleep as We Age
“In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years”. *
(*This quote has been attributed to Honest Abe Lincoln, but - fun fact - we looked it up and it isn’t actually him, but an advert for a book in 1947. We still think it’s a great quote .)
The UN estimates that the number of people over the age of 60 will double by 2050, and triple by 2100, which means our years are increasing. Our Dream Team at pod is focused on improving the quality of the life in those years through good sleep.
As we age, it’s normal to experience some changes to our sleeping patterns: things like becoming sleepy earlier, waking up earlier, or feeling like you are becoming a ‘light sleeper’ are all normal. But disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, or staring at the ceiling and solving the world's problems during the night – while common – are not a normal part of aging.
Those who don’t sleep well are more likely to experience excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, deteriorating health, and may even have more falls. Sleep deprivation can also cause cognitive impairments like confusion, and attention and memory problems.
Whether you are 6, 60 or 106, sleep remains incredibly important for your physical and emotional health.
There are certain factors that can crop up as we age that can make sleep more elusive:
Lack of sunlight. -If we become less active, we spend more time indoors and get less exposure to sunlight. This in turn can disrupt our sleep-wake cycles.
Tip: Get out in the sunshine and keep your curtains open during the day to help your body naturally regulate. Light and bright!
Reduced production of the sleep hormone, melatonin can lead to more disrupted sleep during the night.
Tip: Eliminating exposure to the blue light spectrum in the evening (found in electronics and normal indoor lights) and even supplementing your melatonin can help with more sound sleep.
Symptoms from other health conditions - multiple health conditions or persistent pain will result in us getting less than the required amount of sleep, having poor sleep quality, or experiencing symptoms of insomnia.
Tip: We may need to allow a bit of extra time in bed to achieve the same amount of sleep as we age.
Nighttime urination- also called nocturia, increases with age due to physical changes in the urinary system.
Tip: Reduce your liquid consumption a few hours before bed to decrease the need to get up to use the toilet.
Side effects of Medications- Many common medications can contribute to sleep issues, for example, antihistamines and opiates can cause drowsiness, while antidepressants and corticosteroids may contribute to symptoms of insomnia.
Tip: Make sure to report any symptoms to your doctor so they have a chance to try to improve your outcomes.
Sleeping pills- with so many people turning to them to drift off, it’s worth pointing out that they aren’t a cure for insomnia. While sleeping pills can be helpful in the short-term, for example when you’re recovering from a medical procedure or in short-term pain, they can’t cure your insomnia, and can even make insomnia worse in the long-term.
Tip: Insomnia is absolutely treatable though, so don’t suffer through! Check out our sleep coaching program if this is an issue you struggle with.
Lifestyle changes- such as leaving home less, more napping, less socialising or a less structured sleep schedule can negatively impact your nighttime sleep.
Tip: Exercise, in particular aerobic exercise, helps us fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and have better quality sleep.
Tip: Remember that aging makes it more difficult to recover from sleep loss, so focus on keeping a regular sleep schedule and be careful about napping too long or too late in the day.
Increased stress or anxiety - growing health concerns and changing conditions such as reduced independence or mobility can lead to increased stress and worry.
Tip: Continuing to socialise and maintain connections is one of the best ways to keep your stress and anxiety manageable. If you find that you are stressing about sleep, break the cycle by making relaxation your goal, not sleep. This can help take the pressure off and let you wind down enough to drift off.
So, the moral of the story: sleep is absolutely crucial in being able to able to live our golden years to the fullest. But like everything else, getting a good night’s sleep can become a little more complicated as we get older. Start by knowing what is normal versus what is common, and don’t settle for dragging yourself through life! Your days of waking refreshed aren’t over, you just need to take a different path to get there.
If you need some help to get started, book a sleep coaching session with our dream team to give you the energy to live the life you dream.