Each spring we set our clocks ahead one hour, and it’s easy to remember how the time changes with this rhyme:
Fall behind, spring ahead
Lose an hour in the bed.
It seems that after the change to Daylight Savings Time many people have a hard time adjusting their sleep habits, feeling tired or drowsy for a few days after. It’s a good reminder of just how important it is to get a good night’s sleep, for people of any age. That’s one reason why the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has designated the week after Daylight Savings Time as Sleep Awareness Week.
Sleep Rhythms Change as You Age
The NSF recommends people age 65 and older get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Even without the clock changing to Daylight Savings Time and back again in the fall, you might be experiencing issues getting a good night’s sleep. This could be due to a variety of factors, but one of them is something we don’t have much control over, and that is how our body changes as we age. The part of your brain that controls circadian rhythms deteriorates with age, changing the cycles of when you feel tired or alert. For older people, this means they often feel tired earlier in the evening and wake up early in the morning.
Also as you age the body produces less melatonin, the hormone that helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms. And finally, as we age, people spend less time in deep sleep cycles and more time in the lighter stages of sleep, which makes you more prone to wake up in the middle of the night. And with your mind racing, it can be hard to fall back to sleep.
In addition to these factors that occur naturally with age, older people are more prone to health factors that can contribute to less sleep at night, such as sleep apnea, nighttime urination, or restless leg syndrome.
How to Improve Sleep Habits
With all those issues, it might seem impossible to have a solid 8 hours of sleep as a goal. But cultivating good sleep habits is a good idea, no matter what your age. Here are a few tips to help you get a better night’s sleep, even the week following the shift to Daylight Savings Time.
Get Regular Exercise. It seems to be the answer to everything, which shows just how important it is to get up and get moving. Research shows that daily moderate to vigorous exercise can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep at night. It also reduces daytime sleepiness, and without taking naps during the day you’re more likely to sleep well at night.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene. Put away the cell phone, keep your TV in another room to avoid watching shows in bed, and stay away from the tablet. The exposure to light and stimulation makes it harder for your brain to relax and go to sleep.
Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule. This is probably easier to do for older people who are retired than for younger people still going to school or work every day. Resist the temptation to sleep late on weekends, and keep a regular schedule 7 days a week for better sleep habits.
Watch What You Eat and Drink. A heavy meal late in the day can interfere with getting to sleep at night, as can drinking caffeine or alcohol.
Here at Piedmont Home Care, our goal is to help you and your loved ones enjoy life to the fullest. That includes feeling energetic enough to meet the challenges of the day with a good night’s sleep thanks to a healthy diet and appropriate activity. If you need help with the daily tasks of living, call us to find out how our staff of caregivers can help you.