Old age comes with wisdom, but it also comes with a bunch of health problems that can make it difficult for the elderly to sleep. If you’re old and sleep-deprived, the usual anti-insomnia tips might not be enough. For instance, moderate and vigorous exercises are recommended by the National Sleep Foundation as a way to regulate sleeping patterns in both adults and kids. In place of strenuous exercises that might further complicate an elderly person’s existing health problems (and exacerbate their insomnia), you can try this much more viable alternative:
Start Practicing Yoga Regularly
There have been several scientific studies that have proven the benefits of long-term yoga practice as a sleep-aid, particularly for the elderly. It has a lot to do with regular yoga practice increasing their general quality of life.
While the ancient roots of yoga are highly spiritual in nature, modern yoga is mostly concerned with maintaining physical health through low-impact postures and breathing techniques. Several types of modern yoga exist today, and some of them are more strenuous than others, like ‘hot yoga’ or Bikram – moderate to difficult poses done in a heated room. While Bikram is fantastic for weight loss and ‘detox’, it’s not really appropriate for elderly folks suffering from sleeping problems.
Before experimenting with Bikram or even Ashtanga, find a way to practice Hatha yoga. This modern yoga practice is all about the basics – flexibility and balance coupled with proper breathing. Hatha also has a slower ‘flow’, which means that you can take more time in between executing poses. Asking your yoga instructor about the pace or flow of a particular yoga class is a good way to gauge if you’re physically ready to attempt it – slower flows are less physically taxing. A basic Hatha yoga class is perhaps the best way for beginners to be introduced to the meditative qualities of yoga.
Through consistent yoga practice, an elderly person will eventually see improvement in joint function and flexibility. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667430/] Certain chronic bodily pains will either lessen or completely disappear. Muscular deterioration, which is quite common in the elderly, can be significantly slowed down or even halted. Degraded posture due to bone aging can also be corrected. Slowly mastering yoga is a way to safely and surely enter a state of physical fitness and mental sharpness. Similar to vigorous exercises like running or weight lifting, yoga practice can improve mood and melt away anxiety. As the elderly yoga practitioner better understands the calming effects of synchronized breathing and proper posture execution, he or she will be better able to enter a state of concentration and calm – a mental state that can be useful when preparing to fall asleep.
Stop Smoking Cigarettes
You already know how coffee can keep you from sleeping. Alcohol is the same – it might get you drunk enough to pass out, but it’s also going to stimulate the brain and either wake you up drunk, or completely degrade the quality of sleep that you do get. The effects of nicotine on sleep are quite similar to those of coffee and alcohol near bedtime – unproductive mental stimulation that only leads to worse insomnia. [https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-causes-insomnia]
We know it can be hard to quit smoking cigarettes. You can get them nearly anywhere, they’re cheap, and for those who’ve been smoking for decades, they’re the very definition of instant gratification. If you can’t quit cigarettes entirely, at least treat it like coffee, energy drinks, and alcohol – dangerous drugs that should be avoided at all costs before bedtime. Put a couple hours between your actual bedtime and your last cigarette of the day. It can make a lot of difference when you’re readying yourself for sleep.
Get a Firmer Mattress
If you’re a senior citizen, you deserve to sleep on a good mattress. Your bed can both be a source of as well as a cure to your insomnia. Stop settling for spring, cotton, or air mattresses that leave you with strange pains in the morning. A firmer mattress can allow you to maintain a better sleeping posture that won’t cause hell on your joints and parts of your back.
Check out latex mattresses that are known for comfortable firmness and support. If all-latex beds are too firm for you, there are some beds that combine latex with softer and comfier materials, like memory foam and cotton. If you’re old and can’t sleep, getting a more comfortable mattress should definitely be on top of your list.
Rachel Vesh is a freelance writer, licensed nurse, and sleep enthusiast from Los Angeles, California. After traveling through SE Asia to learn of his heritage, she joined a few of his colleagues at One Bed Mattress. She practices Zen meditation daily and prefers living a natural health lifestyle.