Rest, Relaxation and Renewal: ‘Three R’s’ are a foundation for better physical and mental health
Many tend to associate lack of sleep, no time to relax or take a pause as a younger person’s issue. After all, harried work environments, busy commutes, parenting and late-night social interactions are par for the course during the work years. However, older people have common issues with lack of sleep as well, and this can more pointedly affect their total health picture.
According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults need the same amount of sleep as younger ones - seven to nine hours a night. Many seniors find themselves getting considerably less sleep than that. A combination of factors can affect sleep patterns, from natural changes in hormone levels to issues with pain, the effects of medications, or changes in lifestyle such as retirement.
No matter the cause, the result is often worse health outcomes. Those who do not get enough sleep can be irritable, lethargic, or have problems with cognition or memory. And rejuvenation is essential to maintaining a healthy body - the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to become ill. In short: Sleep is essential.
Breaking a cycle of sleeplessness can seem daunting, but the NIA offers easy steps to take to change habits, including developing a specific, relaxing bedtime routine, not overusing of screens, avoiding eating before bedtime, and getting regular exercise. Any combination of these can help create a regular sleep schedule, so don’t be afraid to try one at a time and add in more.
Insomnia is very common in older adults, so don’t feel daunted if you’re still having some trouble with sleep. In fact, focusing on insomnia can increase anxiety and make the problem worse. Over-the-counter sleep aids are an option but not a cure; over-reliance can reduce effectiveness and cause other health issues.
To aid in sleep at night, consider relaxation during the day. That’s right, you can improve your rest when wide awake. Mindfulness, stress reduction, stretching and exercise are all tied to a better night’s sleep. Find time during the day to refocus your mind, take a deep breath, or just enjoy a moment outside – all these activities can lead to a restful evening and a better next day.