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Healthy aging aided by better sleep

March 11, 2013

Getting enough sleep is important for people of any age, but it is an especially crucial component of healthy aging. However, many older adults may not get as much shut-eye as they need, and with World Sleep Day slated for March 15, it might be a good idea for seniors to consider taking steps to improve how restful their nights are.

According to the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM), as much as 50 percent of older adults say they run into problems sleeping. The biggest culprits for trouble sleeping later in life are the myriad health conditions that seniors have to manage. Respiratory issues, psychiatric illness and the increased use of medication can significantly disrupt the sleep cycles of older adults. 

Not getting enough sleep comes with a host of senior health issues. Aside from simply feeling more tired, older adults who have trouble sleeping raise their risk of everything from depression and anxiety to problems with balance and an increased risk of falling.  

To address sleep problems, seniors should first look at the medication they're taking. The WASM suggests older adults should talk to their doctors about alternative treatments that won't interfere with their sleep. Seniors could also consider shifting their sleep pattern, whether that means going to bed earlier or waking up a bit later. 

Small lifestyle changes may also help seniors find better sleep. Diet can play a significant role, according to the Mayo Clinic. For instance, going to bed hungry or too full can cause problems falling asleep. Additionally, physical activity is important. Not only can it help seniors fall asleep faster but it also improves the quality of their rest.