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Caregiver Training Blog

How to Promote Better Sleep in Seniors

About 39% of seniors experience insomnia on a regular basis as opposed to the 30% of younger people. Lack of sleep can cause very serious mental and physical health problems, particularly for seniors. Here are a few ways you can help the senior in your life sleep better.


Encourage Regular Exercise

Whether it is ten minutes of yoga in the evening or 45 minutes of Tai Chi class in the mornings, exercise is a great way to ensure the brain sleeps well. The reason exercise is beneficial for sleeplessness is not yet understood, but studies have shown that it does in fact significantly improve sleep for people with chronic insomnia.

Sleep_for_Seniors.jpgExercise for seniors needs to be low impact and low risk; therefore, the types of exercise available can be limited. Fortunately, many senior-based groups for exercising have begun to spring up. Check your local senior center for group meetups. Morning walks, swim aerobics, and Tai Chi are among the most popular group activities for seniors and also double as opportunities for socialization. Image via Pixabay by ErikaWittlieb


Promote Good Dietary Habits

Certain dietary deficiencies can be the root cause of restlessness. For example, low calcium levels have been shown to cause insomnia. Make sure your loved one has a well-balanced diet to avoid these deficiencies. If you’re struggling with correcting an initially poor diet, supplements are always a good stepping stone.

Evening drinks can also aid sleep. Though alcohol makes us tired, the sleep that results is not good quality. A better alternative might be chamomile tea, an ancient remedy for sleeplessness. In addition, drinking a warm drink can be relaxing and prepare us for sleep. If your loved one doesn’t care for tea, another good pre-bed drink is cherry juice. It has high natural melatonin content – a hormone we produce for sleep.

You should also ensure that any evening snacks are not sugary or full of carbohydrates. These things will make the body more alert. Good evening snacks are protein- or magnesium-rich such as hard boiled eggs and bananas. Magnesium promotes muscle relaxation, a beneficial side effect for insomniacs.


Establish an Evening Routine

Creating and following a standard nighttime routine around the same time every night trains the brain when it should start to feel tired. Certain actions will begin to signal mental shut down and will make it easier for the senior to sleep. For example, half an hour before bedtime, prepare and drink a cup of chamomile tea. At this time, switch off any screens and read in lieu of watching TV.

When the tea is gone, put on your sleeping clothes. The change of clothes is a strong signal to the brain that it needs to relax. Return to the book until bedtime. After some repetition, the mind will learn what starts the wind-down process and by the time your loved one makes it to bed, the mind will take far less time to fall asleep.

Though insomnia affects seniors at a higher rate than any other demographic, it can be easily and naturally corrected with a few lifestyle changes. It is important that you don’t accept sleeplessness as a part of aging but tackle the problem as soon as it is identified. If the insomnia is more serious, don’t be afraid to speak to a doctor about pharmaceutical assistance. Lack of sleep is no laughing matter. For seniors to remain happy and healthy, proper sleep is a must.


Jim Vogel and his wife, Caroline, created ElderAction.org after they began caring for their ailing parents. Through that rewarding and sometimes difficult process they’ve learned a lot about senior care and specifically the need for more effective senior mental health and support. Their site offers elder-positive resources and other helpful information on aging. In his spare time, Jim loves fishing, reading, and spending time with his kids.