According to a report from the National Institutes of Health, almost 50% of adults older than 60 have reported trouble falling asleep and insomnia. This problem with insomnia and difficulty sleeping is now affecting more and more people who are much younger than the 60 and above mentioned in the report.
Finding it harder to fall asleep or waking up earlier than you used to in your prime is something many older adults now have to deal with. And while waking up earlier in the morning doesn’t bother some people, most find it doesn’t give them enough sleep, leaving them tired, fatigued and cranky. This is truer for those elders with chronic problems or pain issues as their already poor sleep quality, becomes poorer due to age-related insomnia.
All adults need around the same amount of sleep, regardless of if they are 21 or 81 and what you may not know is that constant lack of sleep or getting low quality sleep for years can cause depression, coordination problems and can result in memory decline. However, if you have the right amount of sleep most nights throughout your life, your physical health and mental wellbeing are in much better condition as you get to your golden years. Studies have been conducted which show that sleep difficulty can be linked to significant health problems including mental deterioration, insulin resistance and issues with memory.
Now that we have noted the dangers of age-related insomnia, let’s better understand the possible reasons for this sleeping problem:
Reasons For Age-Related Insomnia:
- Health Problems And Medication: Getting older usually comes with its fair share of health problems and medications to keep these health issues at bay. However, this indirectly links aging to sleep problems because many people with chronic health problems find it difficult to get quality sleep or enough of it. These issues include heart disease, diabetes, GERD, arthritis and more which can limit the amount of restful sleep one experience.
When talking about medications which negatively affect sleep quality, diuretics are usually to blame. When you take some heart disease or high blood pressure medications, they contain diuretics which can keep you waking up throughout the night to go to the loo.
- Location: Studies have shown that being in familiar places and locations can help improve sleep. In the same way, being away from a familiar location, like in a new nursing home, can cause some people to find it difficult to sleep soundly.
- Mental Stress: Problems related to health and money are some of the biggest reasons older adults find it difficult to get quality sleep. Even retirement, having an empty nest or a loss of someone close can cause mental stress which affects sleep quality in adults, leading to age-related insomnia.
- Circadian Rhythms: There are usually around 24 hours of our natural biological sleep cycle, and we set the time for sleeping and waking up as we get older. But as we get older, this sleeping pattern can alter itself, making us feel sleepy earlier in the evenings which results in us waking up earlier the next morning. This problem is called ASP (Advanced Sleep Phase) disorder, and this can cause some people to have sleep cycles that have gone out of control. For these people, the difficulty in getting sufficient and quality sleep can take a toll on their health. If this sounds like a problem you are facing, you should talk to your doctor.
Now that we have taken a look at why people have age-related insomnia, let’s take a look at some of the most effective tips for falling asleep while getting older. These are very important as we have already seen the link between aging and insomnia as well as how insomnia can cause several health problems, many of which can be avoided by improving your sleep quality.
Tips For Getting Better Sleep:
- Workout For Your Sleep: Exercising helps boost your quality of sleep because it stimulates your body to expend energy and get tired. However, just make sure that you don’t work out within three hours of bedtime as this can cause you to not fall asleep on time.
- Relax Before Your Sleep: It’s found that the blue light from phones, laptops, and TVs can cause alertness and increased cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the brain. This prevents you from getting good sleep. Instead relax before your sleep by taking a bath, reading a book, writing in your diary or anything else that relaxes your mind and body.
- Schedule Your Sleep: Did you know that you can control and program your biological circadian rhythm? Well, you can do this by going to sleep and waking up every day at the same time. This includes the weekends as this helps cement this timing of sleep cycle and prevents age-related insomnia from taking hold.
- Bedroom Ambiance: Your bedroom should be only for sleeping or having sex which is why it’s best to get rid of your bedroom TV. To help prepare your mind for quality sleep, your bedroom should be quiet, cool and dark.
Good sleep is essential, especially as you get older and are more prone to age-related insomnia. This article was written to help raise the awareness of this health problem that most people underestimate. Getting proper sleep doesn’t cost anything, but it can have several health benefits that become more evident as you get older. We also suggest that you talk to your doctor if you are having difficulty with sleeping problems or insomnia.
Michelle is the senior most expert who writes for this website. After completing her graduation and 10+ years of practice, Michelle has been involved and known for a lot of her philanthropy work. Michelle loves spending time researching and writing her papers. She occasionally writes for us and we are extremely proud to have her as one of our editors.