Tips for Fostering Healthy Sleep Patterns in Older Adults


A man lies in bed awake because sleep patterns in older adults can change.
It’s common for sleep patterns in older adults to change, and our expert tips can help.

We’ve all been there: slowing down breathing, counting sheep, listening to white noise, all in an attempt to force our brains to shut down to allow us the sleep we desperately need. As we age, it can be even more difficult to get enough sleep. Older adults may experience modifications to their sleep architecture, including lighter sleep, more frequent awakenings, and a shift towards earlier bedtimes. Yet maintaining healthy sleep patterns in older adults is vitally important for cognitive function, emotional health, and physical vitality.

What Affects Sleep Patterns in Older Adults?

There are numerous factors impacting senior sleep, including:

  • Circadian Rhythm Changes: Aging can adjust the body’s internal clock, resulting in a preference for earlier bed and wake times.
  • Environmental Factors: Noise, light, and temperature can affect sleep quality.
  • Medications: Certain medications may have side effects that disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Health Conditions: Chronic pain, arthritis, and respiratory issues can contribute to discomfort during the night.

So, How Can You Help an Older Loved One Sleep Better?

  • Limited Naps: Though there are benefits to short naps, longer naps, especially later in the day, can make it harder to fall and stay asleep at night. Emphasize the importance of brief, rejuvenating naps while cautioning against extended daytime sleep, which could disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Regular Exercise: Exercise is important, but just as important is the timing of physical activity. Engaging in exercise early in the day can play a role in better sleep. Encourage activities that seniors enjoy, whether it is a morning walk, gardening, or light yoga, fostering a healthy routine that aligns with their preferences.
  • A Comfortable Sleep Environment: Make sure the mattress and pillows are supportive and comfortable. Consider soft, breathable bedding materials, and if applicable, invest in sleep-inducing scents or a white noise machine to create an optimal atmosphere for relaxation.
  • A Consistent Routine: Encouraging a regular sleep routine is essential for older adults. Beyond adhering to consistent bedtimes and wake-up times, consider incorporating calming pre-sleep rituals. This could include activities like listening to soothing music, reading a book, or practicing gentle meditation to signal to the body that it is time to wind down.
  • Mindful Eating: Specific foods promote sleep, such as those rich in magnesium or tryptophan. Additionally, herbal teas are known for their calming properties. Offer practical tips on portion control and timing to increase the positive impact of nutrition on sleep.
  • Relaxation Techniques: There are a number of relaxation techniques that older adults can incorporate into their pre-sleep routine, such as mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, and gentle stretching routines. There are both mental and physical benefits of relaxation practices in preparing the body and mind for a restful night’s sleep.

Our staff members are helping older adults in our community stay engaged and active, eat healthier, and enjoy calming routines that foster better sleep habits. Contact Sage Home Care online or at 1-800-578-4554 to learn how we can assist someone you love in Brewster, Carmel, and Poughquag, as well as the surrounding areas.

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