As one gets older, your sleep patterns naturally begin to change, but not always for the good. The problems like daytime fatigue, light sleep and frequent waking start piling up, and almost immediately, one turns to medication for the answer. But these normal changes don’t need drugs that can be habit-causing or have side effects, and these problems can easily be resolved by making some healthy changes in your lifestyle. By setting a regular bedtime you get your body and mind into a routine, exercise during the day tires you out so you fall asleep easier and avoiding caffeine, smoking and alcohol definitely helps one obtain a better night’s rest. Those with unhealthy insomnia can get medications, relaxation techniques, light therapy, sleep restrictions, learn about sleep hygiene or get behavioural treatment.
Elderly people cannot always blame sleeplessness on just body changes though. Sometimes they suffer from a back injury/pain or a medical sleeping disorder like obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder or a circadian rhythm disorder.
Sleep apnea is when the muscles around your airway relax while sleeping, causing your airway to collapse and you experience major pauses in breathing. This disrupts your normal sleep progression.
Restless leg syndrome is the experience of great discomfort in the legs that leaves one with a strong urge to walk around. It can be relieved by soaking your legs and feet in warm water before going to bed.
Periodic limb movement disorder causes muscle contractions in the arms and legs, causing movement during sleep and waking the person who suffers from this disorder.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders affect the body’s sleeping and waking cycle.
As an elderly person, you need to choose the bed that is perfect for you!! When looking at different beds, you should consider your health and your body’s requirements. As you age, the discs in your vertebrae deteriorate and lose their moisture and elasticity, becoming less flexible and making your torso as a whole more rigid. Do you suffer from any sleep disorders? Do you have any circulatory problems? Do you suffer from back or neck pain? These are some questions you need to ask yourself…
Mattresses: Memory foam mattresses are soft and react to your body heat to reshape and conform to your body’s shape. This relieves pressure points on joints and is soothing to muscles. The mattress should also be breathable, with an open cell structure that allows air to flow freely. Although these foam mattresses are of outstanding quality and offer excellent comfort and support, they may be too soft for elderly people. As one ages, it becomes harder and harder to get in and out of bed. A firmer latex foam or spring mattress would be better because one doesn’t sink into the mattress as much and it doesn’t sag when you sit on the edge. Thus a “bouncier” mattress makes it easier to get out of bed.
Beds: The height of the combined bed base and mattress is a very important aspect to consider. The mattress should come to about knee height, as rising from a low bed is extremely hard work on your quadriceps muscles and for those who are frail. Buying a bed with bed rails is also a good option.
Another great option to look at is an adjustable bed. These beds can be adjusted by the push of a button and set to your personal preference – head and shoulders raised, feet raised or both!! Edema is the painless build-up of fluid in the ankle, feet and sometimes in the calves and thighs. It is relieved by raising one’s legs above the level of your heart, which is exactly what you can do with an adjustable bed!! Raising your head and shoulders relieves back pain and it is a great position for reading.