Adequate sleep is essential to good health. Unfortunately, sleep can be difficult for elderly people and their caretakers, particularly among elderly people who are disabled. Physical pain, emotional stress, or challenging sleep environments can make sleeping difficult for those who are disabled. Caretakers often have disrupted sleep both in a family setting or institutional space. Overall, roughly 89 percent of people with chronic pain have at least one problem with disturbed sleep.
However, addressing sleep problems can lead to improvement in daily activity and a reduction in suffering. With better sleep, elderly adults can improve their physical well being, mood, and everyday outlook. Specialized bedding products including beds, mattresses, assistive devices and bedding accessories can help improve sleep for elderly individuals. A dependable bedtime routine can be a useful tool for improving sleep as well.
What a Dependable Bedtime Routine Does for Seniors and Caregivers
With a dependable bedtime routine, seniors can practice better sleep hygiene. A dependable sleep routine signals to the brain that it’s bedtime and helps to induce sleepy feelings. A dependable bedtime routine is predictable, reassuring, and it can calm the brain and emotions and help ease seniors into bed for a good night’s rest.
How Caregivers Can Develop a Dependable Bedtime Routine
A dependable bedtime routine means doing the same things before bed each and every night. What you do to make up the routine is not as important as simply doing the routine: it’s the act of doing the routine each night that helps signal to the brain that it’s time to slow down and sleep.
What you can do to develop a dependable bedtime routine for seniors:
- Aim to go to bed at the same time every night. What you do matters, and so does when you do it. Maintaining a regular bedtime schedule is essential to keeping a dependable bedtime routine and getting healthy sleep.
- Practice the bedtime routine every night without fail. The most important thing to do when developing a bedtime routine for seniors is to repeat the same thing every night, even if you’re traveling or they require care in a different location than usual. Doing so will maintain the strength of the routine as it signals sleepiness each night.
- Create a calming routine that can be done anywhere. Seniors may need care that requires them to sleep in multiple locations, and that means some parts of your routine can’t be repeated everywhere, such as petting a cat goodnight or wearing a certain type of pajamas. Focus on a simple routine that can be repeated in any setting, including a hospital, such as brushing teeth and reading before turning off the light and dozing off.
- Make the sleep environment comfortable and relaxing. You can begin preparing a senior for bed by placing a soft, comfortable blanket on them about an hour before bedtime. Make sure there are no bright lights, especially blue lights, in the bedroom. If you’re taking care of someone who has other age-related disorders that could be causing pain, pay attention to their sleep environment and make sure they’re sleeping on a comfortable surface. Even if you need to have medical equipment in the bedroom, do everything you safely can to keep it from feeling like a cold, sterile hospital room.
- Don’t worry about elaborate routines. Similarly, it’s important to keep things simple. Checking off 20 different boxes before bed can be stressful. Simply make sure that the last few things done before bed are always the same and done at the same time as much as possible.
Alicia Sanchez is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com with a specialty in health and wellness. A Nashville native, Alicia finds the sound of summer storms so soothing that she still sleeps with recorded rain on her white noise machine.