How to help your elderly loved one get more sleep
Sleep problems can plague us all, but for the elderly it can increase the severity of dementia symptoms, promote obesity and make them more prone to picking up illnesses. It can also be difficult to care for an elderly parent or relative who is having trouble sleeping, as you yourself need your sleep.
According to non-profit organisation The Live-in Care Hub there are plenty of small changes you can do to help your loved one get a better night’s sleep. Of course, if you have any serious concerns about your relative’s sleeping patterns you should mention it to their doctor and ask for medical advice.
Winding down time:
We all need a chance to prepare ourselves for sleep and if your loved one is having difficulty dropping it off it becomes even more important. Create a calming evening routine with their live in carer which can be followed to “prime” their brain for sleep and make it easier for them to drop into restful slumber. Start with turning off the television and other sources of “blue” light and offering a soothing drink such as warm milk and honey, before getting into bed.
Certain foods and drinks can be detrimental to good sleep. Avoid caffeine containing drinks in the evening and keep a diary to see if particular foods give your loved one indigestion. If heartburn or reflux is an issue then avoid eating and drinking too close to bedtime. Don’t forget to talk to local home care providers and ask them to help pinpoint possible culprits.
Keep the noise down:
Noisy bedrooms can make it hard to wind down so hang thick curtains to dampen outside sounds. Some people find it hard to sleep with changing noise levels – if this is the case then white noise (a radio left untuned for example) can provide a neutral background hum.
Older people often naturally get sleepier and, without stimulation, may spend a large proportion of the day asleep. Ensuring that naps remain short and sweet, by providing sufficient active stimulation such as conversation, days out, walking in the garden or meal preparation, can improve the quality of sleep overnight.
Get the room right:
Ensuring that the bedroom is conducive to sleep is also important as any guide to better home care will tell you. Make sure that the mattress on the bed is comfortable – many older people end up sleeping on old mattresses that are sagging and lumpy. Ensure bedclothes are suitable for the season to avoid overheating or chills. Ensure that the temperature in the bedroom remains consistent to avoid disrupting sleep later in the night, for example when the heating switches off, and that the room does not get too warm or too cold.
Thick curtains or blackout blinds can also be useful to block out unwanted light, either to avoid early rising or to minimize the intrusion of street lights. If total darkness is preferred then ensure an easy to use lamp is provided and consider using automatic nightlights that switch on when they detect movement.