As your loved one ages, many things they used to do effortlessly become much harder. One of those things is sleep. Whether your loved one has dementia, Parkinson’s, or is simply approaching old age, senior sleeping issues are going to come up.
There’s a lot you can do, though, to help them out. Here are three tips to get you started.
3 Tips For Senior Sleeping Issues
#1: Help them figure out what’s going on.
Difficulty sleeping – whether it’s chronic insomnia or not – can be caused by any number of factors, and sometimes even a few of them combined. If you can help your loved one pinpoint the reason (or reasons) behind it, you’ll be that much closer to coming up with a solution. Try to help your loved one with the following; enlist the assistance of the staff at their residence if you can.
- A sleep diary. Help your loved one keep track of what time they got into bed, when they fell asleep, if they woke up in the middle of the night (and how often). Also: Why did they wake up? Pain? Fear? Thirst? Restroom run?
- Medication check. Take a look if your loved one is taking any meds that cause daytime drowsiness or insomnia.
- Check their eating habits. Some people find it harder to fall asleep after certain foods. Others find that if they eat too close to bedtime, they experience discomfort that wakes them up later on. See if you can nail down your loved one’s evening bedtime habits and note any possible connection between specific foods and restless nights.
#2: Talk to their doctor about their sleeping issues.
After you’ve gotten as much information as you can, it’s time to make an appointment with your loved one’s primary physician. If you can go along with them, great. If not, make sure that whoever does accompany them knows all the relevant information – as well as which questions need to be asked. Here are some:
- Are there any meds Mom’s taking that have sleep-disrupting side effects that she and/or the staff at her residence might not be aware of?
- If so, are there any substitutes that will work as well – and don’t have similar side effects?
- Is there anything in the blood work that might be causing Dad to have senior sleeping issues, like anemia?
- Which alternatives exist to sleeping pills?
- Do you have any suggestions for changes in my loved one’s daily routine that might improve their ability to sleep?
#3: Lifestyle changes.
After you’ve spoken to your loved one’s medical and gotten any recommendations they might have, it’s time to sit down with your loved one and take a look at their daily routines. Speak to the administration at their long-term care or senior residence community to see how they might be able to help make changes that will improve your loved one’s sleeping patterns. Make a list of everyone’s suggestions so you can keep track. Just one thing: Don’t try more than one change at a time; if you do, you won’t know which ones are working and which ones aren’t.
Ideas to think about:
- Caffeine. Is Mom a real coffee drinker? If the answer is yes, she might be having too much caffeine too late in the day. Try limiting the caffeine to the morning, and transitioning to decaf from noon on.
- Liquids. Dehydration in seniors is a real concern. But is Dad drinking throughout the day, or is he packing it in toward evening? Drinking too much before bed will keep anybody hopping, let alone an older adult.
- Naps. If your loved one is napping for an extended time later in the day, insomnia is almost sure to follow. Talk to whoever’s in charge in the afternoon about adjusting the times when your loved one naps as well as the duration.
- Sleep routines. Encourage your loved one to develop a sleep routine. Do they enjoy reading before bed? Listening to music? Do they prefer the blinds drawn or open? Would a bath before bed relax them? Doing the same sleep prep at the same time each night can help the body mellow out and sleep better.
Getting to the root of any senior’s sleeping issues will take some time and a lot of patience. And you might not be able to solve them completely. Hopefully, though, with some trial and error, you’ll succeed in helping your loved one improve the quality and quantity of their sleeping hours. Which will make them a lot happier – and you, too.