Sleep is a crucial part of our health, especially for older adults. It is during sleep that our bodies recover from the day’s activities. The recovery is both physical and mental. It’s common knowledge that too little sleep can lead to cognitive decline. It can even raise the risk of dementia. Hence, we must find ways for seniors to sleep better.
There are many actions that seniors can take to sleep better. One simple thing to improve sleep is using the right mattress. For example, a split queen mattress is a good option for an older couple. It gives enough space for two people. Because the bed is separated, each person can have different sleeping arrangements. There are other ways seniors can sleep better too. Keep the temperature in the bedroom cool. Seniors should also improve sleep when avoiding alcohol and caffeine hours before bedtime.
Getting the Right Mattress
We can be pretty specific when buying clothes. Everything should fit and feel right; the same should apply to your mattress.
Clothes are made of cotton, silk, and other textiles. Likewise, mattresses can be made of different materials. There are generally five types of mattresses based on the fabric: memory foam, latex, innerspring, airbed, and hybrid. Hybrid mattresses are combinations of at least two of the other four materials. There are pros and cons to each mattress type. Which type is suited for you will depend on your wants and needs. You may have to try or research more than one type to figure out which one is best for you.
Firmness and Softness
A mattress can be soft, medium, or firm. Seniors should choose the firmness level of a bed based on individual preferences and needs. A firmer mattress may be right for you if you need more support for your shoulders, back, and hips. A soft bed will work if you have no problem with help and prefer softness for comfort. A medium mattress may be the option if you need something in between. The firmness of a mattress is measured using the Indentation Load Deflection (ILD) or the Indentation Force Deflection (IFD). The higher the ILD rating number, the firmer the mattress will be.
Just like clothes, mattresses also have sizes. For couples, the queen size is popular. A queen mattress measures 60″ by 80″, and for many, that size is enough. However, there are couples with different mattress preferences. For those couples, they might prefer a split queen mattress. A split queen mattress is the same size, except it’s divided into two. Each half measures 30″ by 80″. Each person on either side can have a separate sleep setup. For example, if one person in the couple has different firmness/softness preferences than the other, they can both have it the way they want on their respective side. If an adjustable base is required, each side of the mattress can be set to a different position.
Keeping It Cool
When we sleep, our body temperature naturally goes down by 1 to 2 degrees. This cooldown helps relax our bodies so we can get better sleep. If it’s really hot, even with this drop in body temperature, it may still feel too hot to fall asleep. Sleep may be better by getting an air conditioner to keep the room cool. Sleeping in loose, comfortable clothes may also benefit seniors looking to sleep better. Another cooling option is using an electric fan and keeping the room well-ventilated. Older people can also opt for a mattress with a cooling gel. The cooling gel absorbs heat and dissipates it into the environment.
Caffeine has a half-life of about 5 hours. That means it takes about 5 hours for half of the caffeine to leave your body. However, that isn’t always the case. The half-life can range from 1.5 hours to 9.5 hours. Evidence also shows that older people may be more sensitive to caffeine. A 2017 study observed the effect of caffeine on older adults. Older people may need to consider no longer having caffeine 10 hours before bed. There are many foods and drinks with caffeine besides the obvious coffee and tea, so older people may want to avoid those. Chocolate (cacao), energy drinks, and sodas are just some of the culprits to avoid.
Some people think that alcohol helps with sleep because it can help them fall asleep faster. It’s true that alcohol can help a person fall asleep faster because it can act as a sedative. However, alcohol disrupts sleep duration and quality. People who consume a lot of alcohol right before bed also experience insomnia. The reason is the body, especially the liver, is working extra hard to metabolize the alcohol. Ultimately, the person can experience sleep disruptions or poor sleep quality. In particular, consuming alcohol before bed can disrupt REM sleep. REM sleep, which means Rapid Eye Movement sleep, is a stage of deep sleep. It is at this stage that the brain dreams and fixes memory.
Be Physically Active in the Day
People who are physically active during the day tend to sleep better at night. You don’t even have to do intense workouts at the gym to benefit. Low-intensity exercises, such as walking and other aerobic activities, can be enough to better sleep. Physical activity during the day can also stimulate your body to produce melatonin earlier at night. Melatonin is the sleep hormone. The National Institute on Aging shares information on how older people can exercise safely.
Winding down means doing activities that help relax the mind. What activities this would entail is very dependent on the person. Some people may enjoy winding down as they do crossword puzzles, and others might need some good company and a cup of Chamomile tea. Some common winding-down activities are reading, journaling, and meditating.
If I have a split queen mattress, can I feel my partner moving around?
A split queen mattress is basically two mattresses side by side with each other. If the person on the other side moves, the person on the other side should feel little to no disturbances.
Can I still sleep well even if I drink coffee during the day?
You can still have coffee, tea, or any food or drinks with caffeine. However, it may be better if you only consume them earlier in the day, particularly 10 hours before your bedtime. Doing so can help ensure there’s not enough caffeine in your body to keep you up at night.
Are there food or drinks that can help me sleep better?
Some foods that may improve sleep are kiwis, tart cherries, fatty fish, nuts, and whole grains.
Are there supplements that can help me sleep better?
Some supplements that may improve sleep are melatonin, valerian root, and chamomile.
When we are young, we tend to neglect sleep, which shouldn’t be the case. Sleep is an essential part of our health that we should prioritize, especially as we age. If you or someone you know are in their senior years, help them get better sleep so they can stay healthy. Try any of the ways mentioned here to help seniors sleep better.
About the Author:
Jesse Crow is the founder of Rest Right Mattress which specializes in sleep products.