Tips for Seniors Trying to Catch Some Z’s

seniors need sleep

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Seniors and Sleep

As you age, your sleep needs remain the same, but your ability to get a good night’s sleep changes. “As we get older, our sleep gets more fragile; it becomes lighter and more easily disrupted,” says researcher Timothy Monk of the University of Pittsburgh. Various factors can affect us, such as sleep disorders, the quality of your mattress, and even your nightly routine. If you find that you are feeling tired and groggy halfway through the day, it’s time to get to the root cause and take action to recapture those Z’s.

Rule Out a Sleep Disorder

More than 80 million Americans have a sleep disorder. However, there are a few symptoms you may be experiencing that aren’t necessarily qualified as a disorder, but could be impeding your sleep, such as snoring, insomnia, sleepwalking, sleep talking, and night terrors. In addition, it is possible that you could be dealing with one of the most common sleep disorders, which are:

  • Sleep apnea – periodic and brief interruptions in breathing while sleeping
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS) – the overpowering need to move and stretch your legs while sleeping
  • Periodic limb movement disorder – involuntary limb movement while sleeping

In order to receive a sleep disorder diagnosis, a doctor will perform some tests. Fortunately, Medicare covers some of these tests, items, and services, such as sleep studies and a CPAP machine, while Part B covers tests to diagnose sleep apnea, such as a sleep test or polysomnogram (PSG). However, it doesn’t cover everything, so it is worth looking into a Medicare Supplement Plan to make sure you can afford the precious sleep you need.

Invest in a New Mattress

The truth is, not all mattresses are created equally. When choosing a mattress, you need to first consider what is keeping you from sleeping. For example, those with RLS could benefit from an adjustable mattress to boost circulation and relax muscles, while someone with chronic back pain might enjoy a firmer air mattress. You’ll want to take into account the various types of mattresses, such as memory foam, coil, latex, and breathable, and the benefits of each. A memory foam mattress is a popular choice since the foam shapes itself to the contours of your body to reduce pressure on joints and muscles. Breathable mattresses are an excellent option for seniors as well, as the open cell structure allows for airflow, which equates to relaxed muscles when the temperature drops during the winter. Finding the right mattress takes time, so do some research, check out some reviews, and test mattresses until you find the right one.

Find a Routine that Works

Nighttime routines aren’t just for children. Everyone can benefit from a bedtime routine. Start by getting into a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, and try not to nap too close to bedtime. About an hour or two before bed, start winding down and relaxing by taking a bath, reading a book, listening to soft music, or meditating. Lights should be down low and electronics should be powered off. It might be tempting to browse the internet, but the blue light from digital screens can actually make it more difficult for your brain to power down and enter sleep mode.

When to See a Doctor

Sometimes, no matter what you try, you end up tossing and turning into the early hours of the morning. Rather than chalk it up as part of getting older, go see your doctor. The best course of action is to see your primary care doctor first, who can then refer you to a sleep specialist. Should you decide to seek out a sleep doctor on your own, make sure they are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. You’ll be given a lot of information, so bring a family member along with you. If relatives are long-distance, consider purchasing a senior-friendly tablet to keep everyone in the loop.

Seniors need adequate sleep as much as the rest of us. Rather than accept it as natural aging, take action! Rule out a disorder by visiting your doctor, then upgrade your mattress and hammer out a bedtime routine to get the good night’s sleep you deserve.

Karen Weeks

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