Unknowingly or not, each of us has our own rituals and behaviors which may impact our overall feeling of rest. This series of routines and habits we take part in as we prepare for slumber make up what we refer to as sleep hygiene.

Why is sleep hygiene important for seniors?

Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common problems for older adults. While many accept it as a normal part of the ageing process, things like inactivity, poor sleep patterns, and that 4 pm cup of coffee may be contributing to these problems.

Because seniors are more susceptible to illness and general health ailments as they age, it is especially important that they get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night and practice habits that help them fall into the deep, restorative levels of sleep.

Tips for Getting Better Sleep Hygiene

Here are some things seniors can do to improve their sleep hygiene and quality of sleep:

Develop an evening wind-down routine

Creating a series of behaviors that are practiced daily will gradually signal to your body you are getting ready to go to sleep. Choose behaviors that will also aid in relaxing your mind and body such as stretching, meditation, reading, journaling, or a bath. If you live or work in a senior care community, a care management software or app can help residents or staff with creating and tracking progress on this by setting tasks, reminders and recording it in a personal care plan.

Avoid day time naps

To avoid naps causing grogginess or sleep problems at night, keep naps short (10-20 minutes) and before 3 p.m. If you start to feel drowsy during the day, get some fresh air, play a game or chat with a friend to try and stay awake.

Get exercise during the day

Being active throughout the day is beneficial for many reasons. Getting your heart rate up during the day may actually increase the length and quality of your sleep. In fact, as little as 10 minutes of walking or cycling on a daily basis is enough to reap these benefits when done on a consistent basis.

Don’t consume caffeine after noon

Be mindful of light exposure

Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Be sure to get enough light exposure during the day. Similarly, at night, make sure the room is as dark as possible. Blackout curtains can help with this, as well as using making tape over small lights that might be on chargers or cords.

Aim to fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day

Use a filter on electronics

Blue light from electronics can mimic sunlight and throw off our body’s natural circadian rhythm. These kinds of devices can trick our bodies into thinking it is still light outside and we should, therefore, stay awake. Most phones, tablets and computers have a ‘night’ mode. If not, check in the app store for a filter you can download onto your device.

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