Sleep is important for our physical and mental health, especially as we get older. However, many seniors struggle with insomnia or poor sleep quality. While there are prescription medications available, natural sleeping aids can be a safer and effective alternative for seniors.
This article will discuss effective ways to help seniors sleep better. These ways include using over-the-counter sleep aids and making lifestyle changes.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be a convenient and accessible option for seniors seeking relief from sleep difficulties. Assisting in senior care, talk to their doctor before giving them any new medicine, even if it doesn't need a prescription. Let's take a look at some common OTC medications for sleep and their potential benefits and side effects.
Diphenhydramine is a popular antihistamine commonly found in OTC sleep aids. It works by blocking histamines, chemicals in the central nervous system that promote wakefulness, thereby inducing drowsiness.
Medications containing diphenhydramine, such as Benadryl and Aleve PM, can be effective sleep aids for short-term use. They can have side effects like dry mouth, constipation, trouble urinating, blurry vision, and feeling tired during the day. Seniors should be cautious and only take medications with diphenhydramine at night when they can dedicate several hours to sleep.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Night falls, releasing it and triggering sleepiness. For some seniors who are melatonin-deficient, taking a melatonin supplement can be beneficial.
Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter and can help regulate the circadian rhythm. However, it's important to note that melatonin supplements may cause side effects such as headaches and daytime drowsiness. It's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting melatonin supplementation.
Valerian is a natural herb known for its sleep-inducing properties. Supplement and sleep aid manufacturers often use it as an ingredient. People believe that Valerian reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the quality and duration of sleep.
Researchers are still studying the effects of Valerian. Some users experience uneasiness, heart problems, upset stomach, headaches, mental dullness, and vivid dreams as possible side effects. Seniors should be cautious when trying valerian and consult with a healthcare professional if they experience any adverse effects.
Seniors can improve their sleep by making lifestyle changes, along with using natural sleep aids and medications. These changes can have a positive impact on overall sleep hygiene and promote better rest. Let's explore some of these lifestyle changes:
Maintaining a consistent sleep pattern can aid in the regulation of the body's internal clock and encourage better sleep. Even on weekends, seniors should aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This aids the body in establishing its natural sleep and wake cycles, promoting easier transitions into sleep and wakefulness.
Engaging in relaxing activities before bed can signal the body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Older adults can create a nightly routine with tasks like reading, bathing, doing relaxation exercises, or listening to calming music. Avoiding stimulating activities, such as using electronic devices or watching TV, close to bedtime can also contribute to better sleep.
The sleep environment plays a crucial role in promoting good sleep. Seniors should aim to create a comfortable and conducive sleep environment by:
While a brief nap during the day might be rejuvenating, excessive or extended naps can disrupt sleep at night. Seniors should limit daytime napping to no more than 30 minutes and avoid napping close to bedtime.
Regular physical activity can contribute to better sleep quality. Seniors should aim to incorporate moderate aerobic exercise into their daily routine, such as walking, swimming, or cycling. Timing exercise appropriately is crucial. Exercising too close to bedtime can have stimulating effects and make falling asleep challenging. To optimize sleep quality, experts recommend finishing exercise at least two hours before bedtime.
Anxiety and stress can have a major influence on sleep quality. Seniors can benefit from exploring stress management techniques tailored to their needs. Some effective options include:
If stress or anxiety is a persistent issue, seeking support from a healthcare professional or therapist may be beneficial.
To avoid disruptions from nighttime bathroom trips, seniors should limit their fluid intake in the evening, especially closer to bedtime. However, it's important to stay adequately hydrated throughout the day, so finding a balance is key.
Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can interfere with sleep. Seniors should avoid consuming these substances, especially in the afternoon and evening. It is important to note the presence of caffeine in various sources like coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate.
Finding the best natural sleeping aid for seniors involves exploring various options and making lifestyle changes that promote better sleep hygiene. Over-the-counter drugs such as diphenhydramine and melatonin supplements can provide short-term relief. However, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new medication.
Additionally, lifestyle changes such as establishing a consistent sleep routine. This creates a relaxing bedtime routine, and managing stress can significantly improve sleep quality. By incorporating these strategies, seniors can enhance their sleep and overall well-being. Remember, it's essential to prioritize sleep and seek professional guidance when needed to ensure a restful night's sleep.
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