How Sleep Impacts Your Health

The CDC reports that around 70 million Americans have chronic sleep issues. These sleep issues can lead to numerous health risks, including chronic illnesses, diabetes, injuries, mental illnesses, obesity, poor health, reduced work productivity, and more health care costs. It’s no surprise that not getting enough sleep can have a negative impact on your health, especially as you get older. Let’s take a look at how sleep impacts your loved one’s health and tips to get better sleep today.

How Does Sleep Affect Older Adults’ Health?

When you don’t get enough sleep, this can prevent you from living the highest quality of life. A lack of proper sleep can make it challenging to perform daily activities. Not being able to perform ADLs (activities of daily living) can prevent an older adult from living independently in their home. 

Additionally, studies have shown that poor sleep can lead to obesity. This is because sleep regulates the hormones that are responsible for telling your body when you are hungry and full. Thus, not getting enough sleep can lead to an older adult eating more unhealthy foods. 

Did you know sleep affects your mental health, immune system, and ability to control emotions. If your loved one is regularly sleepy during the day, this can increase their risk for falls and injuries. In the case of an emergency, those with sleep problems may be slower to respond to emergencies, such as a house fire.

How Much Sleep Do Older Adults Need?

This may be surprising, but older adults still need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. The National Sleep Foundation conducted a survey of older adults and found that 30 to 39 percent of these adults reported having issues with sleeping. As people age, it’s common for it to take longer to fall asleep and stay asleep. This can be a result of medications, bathroom breaks, or medical conditions that interfere with an older adult’s sleep. Of course, the most important part is that a person is able to fall back to sleep and get enough sleep. 

What Factors Cause Poor Sleep?

There are numerous factors that can lead to poor quality sleep. Due to COVID-19, many older adults have been affected by this pandemic. For example, older adults may have experienced more stress, sickness, social isolation, and loneliness, as well as less sleep, physical activity, and joy. In turn, this can make it difficult to fall asleep. If an older adult is taking certain medications, these can keep them from falling asleep easily. 

If an older adult is feeling very tired during the day, this may be an indicator of a serious sleep issue like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), cognitive impairment, or cardiovascular issues. For those with OSA, this is when weight placed on the upper chest and neck leads to air flow being blocked. Common symptoms include drowsiness and snoring, as well as gasping, dry mouth, and headaches. As people age, the risk for OSA increases and can contribute to poor health and increased risks of accidents, injuries, and obesity. 

When it comes to food, overeating and eating too much unhealthy food can contribute to poor sleep. Specifically, food with low fiber and high amounts of added sugars and saturated fats can negatively affect an older adult’s ability to sleep. This includes butter, cheese, and red meat.

As always, it’s recommended to discuss with your doctor if you’re concerned about sleep issues due to sleep apnea, an illness, or current medications. 

Tips for Better Sleep

If you are having trouble sleeping, there are tips you can follow to improve your quality of sleep. Sleep experts recommend adopting a healthy lifestyle, which can positively affect your overall long-term health, well-being, and ability to sleep. Consider the following tips below to achieve better sleep.

1. Use Your Bedroom for Sleeping

If possible, it’s best to use the bedroom for sleeping. This will help your body and mind associate this room for one primary use, to relax and go to sleep. It’s best to not eat or work in this room. Keep your room at a comfortable temperature. While it may be difficult, try to keep computers, phones, tablets, and TVs out of your bedroom, which will reduce the temptation to be on device late at night.

2. Don’t Stress About Waking Up at Night

As adults age, waking up at night may become quite familiar. It’s important to remember that this is very common. As long as you are able to fall back to sleep, it’s not a big concern to wake up to use the bathroom or get a glass of water. For those that are having trouble going back to sleep, try to get up, read a book for a few minutes, or listen to relaxing, quiet music. Once you become sleepy again, it should be easier to go back to sleep.

3. Follow a Bedtime Routine

Choose a bedtime routine that helps you relax and prepare for sleep. It’s a good idea to limit your screen use, especially when social media, news, and YouTube videos can overstimulate the brain to stay awake longer. A few helpful alternatives to relax include listening to soft music, reading a book, or writing in a journal. This will have a calming effect that prepares your mind for lights out.

4. Avoid Specific Foods and Drinks Before You Go to Bed

Alcohol and sleep aids can make it more difficult to get restful sleep. To help you get quality sleep, it’s wise to avoid eating large meals or snacks before bed. Also, caffeine can keep you awake at night as it can stay in your bloodstream for up to 12 hours after drinking your favorite cup of joe. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s a good idea to limit your caffeine intake in the evenings.

5. Do Things That Bring You Joy

As much as possible, do at least one thing a day that brings you joy. This will be different for everyone. However, some suggestions include visiting family, video chatting with a friend, writing letters to others, gardening, or making a new dish. When you do something that you love, this can help lower your stress levels and feel more content with life. In turn, it will be easier to fall asleep when you have done something that was fulfilling.

6. Exercise On a Regular Basis

Getting regular exercise and fresh air is an effective way to improve your mood and outlook on life. While you’re outside, the sunlight will tell your brain that it’s daytime. In turn, being outside will help you adopt a normal sleep and wake routine. 

As you can see, there are several factors that can impact your ability to fall and stay asleep. We hope these tips will help you achieve better sleep. With better sleep, you will naturally feel more energized, healthier, and happier. Contact Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services today to learn about how we are redefining healthcare to meet your needs. We provide everything from short-term rehabilitation and long-term care to therapy services and skilled nursing.