Tips to combat insomnia in seniors

Insomnia in Seniors

Seniors experience insomnia at a much higher rate than their younger counterparts. Generally, it’s not falling asleep that is the problem, but rather staying asleep. Whether it’s to use the restroom or grab a glass of water, once awake, seniors have a hard time falling back asleep.  Insomnia in seniors poses serious health risks.  We’ve long known that lack of sleep is linked to mental and physical problems for all age groups, but a good night’s sleep is especially important for seniors. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health discovered that poor sleep was linked to a build up of beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is a toxic protein found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Not only has poor sleep been found to produce beta-amyloid, but also people whose brains have more beta-amyloid have a harder time sleeping. It’s a catch-22 of sorts. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley found that deep sleep is necessary to “clean” the brain of amyloid protein. So which comes first: poor sleep or increased beta amyloid? They aren’t sure, but getting a good night’s sleep can reduce existing levels of beta-amyloid and prevent more from forming. If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it’s good to know that even people currently suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s can benefit from deeper sleep. Keep reading for a few tips on how to help treat insomnia in seniors.

Create an Exercise Routine

For people dealing with Alzheimer’s, exercise is beneficial because it can help combat depression, sleeplessness, and it stimulates neuromuscular movement. People with Alzheimer’s need both mental and physical exercise, but experts advise scheduling these activities towards the beginning of the day. As the clock moves closer to bedtime, people should reduce their level of activity so they can begin winding down. Exercising too close to bedtime not only leaves a senior energised, but the increase in body temperature makes it harder to fall asleep.

Plan More Activities During the Day

Along with daily exercise, more activities during the day can also help someone sleep at night. If a senior is used to lounging around the house, watching TV, or taking afternoon naps, then its no wonder they’re having trouble falling asleep at the appropriate time. Activities can be as simple as getting out and going to the grocery store. Or, if the person is healthy enough, yard work and daily chores can create a good routine.

Ensure a Relaxing Sleep Environment

To help older people remain asleep, it’s important to limit interruptions. This means that the temperature, noise level, and lighting in the room must remain constant. For example, is the senior’s room close to an area that has activities during the night? Or is their window near a bright streetlight? Maybe it’s time to install some blinds. Also, in regards to temperature, the cooler the body temperature the better. Using blankets in a cooler room is ideal.  Remember comfort is the number one priority at bedtime.

Manage Nighttime Brain Stimulation

As mentioned above, reducing light in a senior’s room during the night is crucial. Some memory care facilities go as far as to adjust the color of a patient’s room to reduce stimulation before bed. If a nightlight is needed, only use a dim red light, as it is the least disruptive colour to our circadian rhythm. Visual stimulation can come in other forms too. Make sure there is no mobile phone, computer, or television use in the hours directly leading to bed. Removing the television from the bedroom can be beneficial.

Through the combined energy of family members, caregivers, and healthcare providers, it is possible to improve a senior’s sleep schedule and possibly prevent complications in the future. Although Alzheimer’s has no cure, minimizing the risks leading to the disease is a step in the right direction. Even for someone already diagnosed with some type of dementia, improving their sleep will greatly improve their quality of life.

Please note:  This article is not to be used as medical advice.  Please consult a medical professional before using any sleep treatments.  This post may contain affiliate links.

Author profile
Max Gottlieb
Senior Planning

Max is the content manager for Senior Planning. Senior Planning provides free assistance to seniors and the disabled, specializing in long-term care.

2 replies
  1. Courtney says:

    I’ve recent read that the cool room is simply a myth with no scientific data to back it up. Apparently there is scientific backing for a much warmer temperature, around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, if I remember correctly. At the moment, I don’t remember where I read that but it was presented in just that way, that, for sleeping, a cool temperature room simply a myth.

    • TheDeepSleepCo says:

      Hi Courtney, thanks for reading. I have read compelling research to support the cool sleep theory. However, if you have a link to the article you are referring to I would love to read it. It is important to get all the facts.
      It is my understanding that a drop in temperature (which happens naturally when you lay down in bed) is one cue to your natural body clock that it is time for sleep. Which is why a cooler room is meant to be better for drifting off to sleep. In reality, the most important thing is to make sure the room temperature is comfortable for you (and your sleeping partner).


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