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Sleep and Aging: Tips for the Elderly

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While babies and young children need many hours of sleep to support their growing bodies, many adults find that they sleep less as they get older — typically just 6.5 to 7 hours each night.

Many people find that they spend less time in deep sleep, and have a harder time falling and staying asleep. You might need less sleep, but the sleep you get isn’t always efficient.

Up to 40 percent of older adults deal with sleep problems. The most common issues include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep and light sleep that is easily interrupted. In serious cases, older adults can become so fatigued that they are unable to stay awake for regular activities during the day.

While aging is linked to these sleep problems, it’s also important to rule out other causes. Sometimes poor sleep is caused by medication or an underlying condition or illness, so your first course of action should be to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

If you’re struggling to fall asleep, the first step is to practice good sleep hygiene. This means going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. You’ll also want to avoid naps if possible and get an appropriate amount of exercise during the day so you feel tired at night. It’s always a good idea to avoid caffeine and nicotine, both of which are stimulants that can keep you awake far into the night and alter your natural sleep cycle.

You can also try these tips to improve your odds of dropping off peacefully:

  • Turn down the heat at night. Most people sleep best in a room that’s 60 to 67 degrees.
  • Use comfortable bedding. If your mattress is old or sagging, a new one will provide proper support and keep you from tossing and turning. Likewise, choose a supportive pillow and linens that feel soft to the touch.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime. Indigestion, heartburn and gas pains can keep you awake, so be sure to finish dinner 2 to 3 hours before your typical bedtime.

If you’re struggling to get adequate rest as you get older, trying these things could make a big difference. Talk to your healthcare provider about additional options if these adjustments aren’t enough. With the right support, you should be able to get a good night’s rest, no matter how old you are.

Verlo Mattress Factory: 5150 Northwest Hwy., Crystal Lake, IL 60014, 815.455.2570, www.verlo.com

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