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Sleep Hygiene for Seniors
Iris L.
Posted: Saturday, September 6, 2014 5:36 PM
Joined: 12/15/2011
Posts: 16863

We all know that good restful sleep is important to cognition and memory and general health overall.  Many of us have a problem in this area.  We might have thought there was nothing to be done except use a sleeping pill.  But there is a lot that can be done to improve sleep without medications.  I'm not against sleep aids.  But it is worthwhile to review sleep hygiene techniques because they do work. 


When I had my overnight sleep study at a sleep lab, I had complained about difficulty in getting to sleep, taking me up to an hour to fall asleep.  I fell asleep almost instantly.  What was the difference, given that I was hooked up to electrodes in a strange bed? 


Everything that is suggested for sleep hygiene was provided.  The room was completely, 100% dark.  There was not a sliver of light.  There was no sound at all.  The mattress was firm and comfortable.  They used a 3" memory foam topper.   The room temperature was comfortable, not too hot nor too chilly nor humid.

I had thought I was doing the right things, but I had not, because I used the street lamp outside my bedroom as a night light, and I often slept with the radio on.  My mattress is older, and my bedroom is often hot because I don't have a/c.

If you have a sleep problem, it will help to review sleep hygiene and make easy adjustments.  Keep your bedroom dark.  I put up darker draperies to keep out the street lamp light.  Use a sleep mask if necessary. 


Keep your bedroom quiet.  I turn off the radio.  Some many need earplugs.  I used to have tapes of environmental sounds, so I could fall asleep to sounds of a babbling brook, or ocean waves.  That did the trick. 


I also keep my pets out of the bedroom, because their movement wakes me during the night. 


Another technique that I was reminded of, because I used to do it, is to do visualization, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation  exercises.  I do what I call "sleep games" to help relax my mind and get it off other topics.  I play geographic games in my mind, such as thinking of state capitals.  Then I go on to provincial capitals, and capitals of countries.  I also do rivers.  I also sing the lyrics of songs in my head.  These are guaranteed to put me to sleep, if I can only remember to do them. 


Here are some links to sites that offer sleep hygiene suggestions and techniques specifically for seniors, because good sleep is harder to come to us as we get older.  I hope these are helpful.  Getting good sleep will help us function better every day, and will help us avoid medical complications and behavioral issues. 




Helpful Hints to Help You Sleep 




How to Sleep Well as You Age

Tips for Overcoming Insomnia and Sleeping Better Over 50


 Iris L.