Coping With Sleep Disorders Among Seniors

Written by Amy Highland

Aging is often associated with increased instances of memory loss, slowed reflexes, and depression, but one of the most prevalent issues for seniors is insomnia. Seniors need seven to nine hours of sleep just like other adults, but many find themselves up several times during the night or waking too early. You may face some unique sleep challenges because of the aging human body. However, once aware of these issues, you can work to implement habits that will improve your chances of getting a good night’s rest.

Age and Sleep

Circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur on a regular 24-hour cycle, control the sleep-wake cycle. Circadian rhythms are heavily influenced by light expo       sure but can also be adjusted through behavior. Special receptors in the eyes called ganglion absorb the blue light that helps regulate circadian rhythms. Over time, changes in the eye such as narrowing pupils and yellowing of the lens can alter the sleep-wake cycle.

Seniors often experience circadian rhythm disruptions due to changes in the eyes. A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology explored the decrease in photo receptivity in the aging eye. Researchers noted that a 10-year-old child’s eye will absorb 10 times the amount of light as that of a 95-year-old. It was found that a decrease in pupil area and changes in light absorption resulted in a progressive loss of the eye’s ability to absorb the light necessary to regulate circadian rhythms. Another study found that patients who’d undergone cataract surgery experienced a better sleep-wake cycle due to the lightening of the eye lens, which allowed more light to regulate their rhythms.

But, but all sleep disorders in seniors do not stem from circadian rhythm problems. Seniors are also at higher risk for disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and rapid eye movement (REM) behavior disorder. Because of growing medical needs, many seniors may be taking medications that interfere with the sleep cycle including antidepressants, anticholinergics, and blood pressure medications.

The Road to Better Sleep

Though seniors face many challenges to getting a good night’s rest, a few behavior changes along with a proper diagnosis of any underlying problems can increase sleep quality. You can also help yourself rest better by:

  • Nighttime Comfort: Seniors often have body aches and pains that get in the way of good sleep. Be sure your mattress offers enough support and is appropriate for your preferred sleep position and weight. This simple change can often reduce nighttime pain.
  • Increasing Natural Light Exposure: Spending more time in natural light can help increase the among of blue light absorbed. It’s this blue light that regulates the circadian rhythms.
  • Using Bright Light Therapy: For some seniors, it can be difficult to get natural light exposure due to mobility issues or weather. Bright light therapy uses a special bulb the gives off light similar to sunlight. Exposure in the morning helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Exercising Regularly: Regular exercise helps to tire out the muscles. It’s also a good opportunity to get outside and increase your natural light exposure.
  • Avoiding Daytime Naps: Excessive daytime tiredness in seniors often results in several daytime naps. While a short nap of 30 to 45 minutes can counteract the effects of sleep deprivation, much longer than that and you could be disrupting your sleep-wake cycle.

Changing habits can take time, but with consistency and effort, you can give yourself a better chance to get the rest you need for improved physical, mental, and emotional health.

10 Best Sports for Seniors to Play

Written by James Fleming

Physical activity is important at any age, but as one gets older, there are even more reasons to keep the body moving. Studies have unquestionably linked regular exercise to a longer lifespan, proven to help prevent heart disease, dementia, obesity, and diabetes while postponing up to 40 other conditions. Not to mention that it can also be a lot of fun!

Look over the following list of sports and speak to your doctor about which ones ideally suit your current abilities.

  1. Swimming

If you suffer from arthritis or any type of joint inflammation, then swimming is as low impact as it gets. The weightless properties of the water will alleviate any pressure from your body while you still benefit from a full cardio workout. To really stretch those muscles and get your respiratory system busy, join in with some group activities, such as water aerobics, polo, and volleyball.

  1. Cycling

For those who struggle to run, cycling is a great low impact alternative with more advantages than just fast calorie burning. Cycling is also a popular method of transportation which will save you money while also lowering your carbon footprint. What’s more, it can be very enjoyable to watch the scenery gliding past you, especially if you join a club and participate in group rides!

  1. Tennis

Whether you love a game of tennis or prefer variations such as squash, badminton, or ping-pong, this sporting activity is the perfect way to improve your balance and your eye-hand coordination while zapping those calories clean off. However, the fast-paced nature of this games does require quite an intense amount of running and jumping, meaning it’s not ideal for those with joint problems. That said, if you do feel a repetitive ache coming on, look at purchasing a brace or experiment with hot and cold therapy where you apply ice packs and heat pads in alternating temperatures.

  1. Golf

You may be thankful to know that even a casual round of golf can do wonders for your overall fitness. Your lungs will appreciate the fresh air, your arms will strengthen from your swing, your brain will provide its deepest puzzle-solving skills, and you will be on your feet for an extended period of time, occasionally even walking uphill. Best of all, with your muscles stretching and your core activating, you’ll be having so much fun that you won’t even notice that you’re exercising whatsoever.

  1. Walking

Simple yet effective, some reports claim that you can get all the physical exercise you need from just 10 – 20 minutes of walking a day. Your blood flow will increase and you will shed those excess pounds without placing too much strain on your joints and ligaments. Furthermore, the fresh oxygen and beauty of the outside world are famous for increasing positive moods and clearing your cluttered thoughts right up.

  1. Dancing

If you’re going to exercise, you might as well have fun with it, right? Dancing is one of the most enjoyable ways to get a full body workout, so look out for senior classes in your area or watch online tutorials to develop this brand new skill. Your energy levels will rise, your memory will be tested to recall certain steps, and you’ll impress your friends next time you’re on the dancefloor!

  1. Lawn Bowling

This physical pastime is very popular in the retiree scene, and for good reason. The various clubs exclusively set up for seniors make for a very sociable gathering, using a bit of friendly competition to improve your balance and coordination.

  1. Tai Chi

By activating your muscles with the gentle movements of tai chi, your overall flexibility and agility will increase without threatening any joint pains or injuries. Furthermore, the mental discipline and breathing techniques required to perform this martial art will make a huge improvement to your mental state of mind too.

  1. Yoga

Yoga is another favorite form of exercise for many seniors because it ticks almost every health box without taxing the body too much whatsoever. Your core balance, muscle flexibility, and respiratory flow will all profit from the practice, while the relaxing meditative properties will help unwind a stressful mind. Look out for senior classes close to you and set out to discover your inner peace!

  1. Croquet

For a much lighter form of sporting pursuits, croquet is the perfect excuse to go outside and exercise at your own pace. This game may not be the most intense workout you’ve ever experienced, but the puzzle-solving focus required will definitely challenge your mental cogs while the social aspect should lift your spirits substantially. Even better is that this leisurely pastime can be performed in your own backyard!

Want to Live Longer? Fall-Proof Your Home Now

Written by James Fleming

Have you heard? A new government study has found that deaths in adults 65+ from falls rose an astonishing 31% in the past decade, jumping from 18,000 deaths in 2007 to 30,000 in 2016. As more and more adults age into the 65+ bracket in the next decade or so, that number could continue to rise dramatically.

Risk Factors for Falling

Don’t think you are at risk for falling? The National Council on Aging reports that a whopping 1 in 4 adults over 65 reports falling at least once a year. Even a minor fall can cascade into serious injuries like hip fractures and other broken bones, sprains, head trauma, and lacerations. From there, a hospital stay may expose you to infectious agents (like hospital-acquired pneumonia) or your mobility can become impaired to a point that affects your activity and independence levels.

Knowing additional factors that put you at risk can help you take early action to protect yourself from falling. Important risk factors for falling include:

  • Age and sex – adults 85 and over are the fastest-growing demographic and the most at risk of falling. Females also typically fall more than men.
  • Chronic illness – seniors with chronic conditions like diabetes, stroke, arthritis, Parkinson’s, and dementia develop symptoms that can affect coordination, mobility, and so forth which contribute to falling.
  • Balance problems – balance problems, dizziness, faintness, and mobility issues can all make it harder to catch and correct yourself when you start to stumble or fall.
  • Fluctuating blood pressure – drastic drops in blood pressure can lead to faintness and dizziness as can some medicine side effects.
  • Hearing or vision impairment – a decline in how well you see and hear can impact the sensory input your brain needs to keep you stable and coordinated.
  • History of previous falling – research shows simply that people who have experienced falls in the past are more likely to have another one.

Fall Prevention Strategies

If you want to live out your retirement in the fun, carefree way you always dreamed, being smart about preventing falls is a must! Keep these help fall prevention tips in mind:

Upgrade Your Home

Simple home modifications can go a long way towards guarding against dangerous falls. Experts recommend installing grab bars in the shower and railings around staircases, ramps, and porches. You should also look at making sure lighting is accessible and consistent between rooms in your home, and that large pieces of furniture and general clutter are moved out of the way to make room for wide, clear pathways throughout the house.

Exercise

In addition to routine cardio workouts, seniors should partake in strength-training and balance exercises. Practices like yoga and tai chi incorporate balance, gentle stretching, weight-bearing poses, and deep breathing and can be easily tailored to all types of mobility levels. And strength-training for older adults is possible (and dare say it, fun) with lightweight dumbbells, resistance bands, and medicine balls.

Talk to Your Doctor

Do you take multiple medications a day? Some studies have shown that this can increase your risk of falling. For example, if you have multiple providers writing prescriptions for you, like a specialist and a primary care doctor, lack of oversight can result in drug interactions or complicated medicine schedules that contribute to bad side effects which increase your risk of falling. Start a dialogue with your doctors about all the medicines you are on and don’t forget to get your hearing and vision checked regularly.

Seek Support

Did you know that simply having a fear of falling can increase your risk of falling? Researchers believe that anxiety about falling can compromise the attention an older adult should pay towards remaining stable and can lead to stiffening behaviors which throw them off balance, specifically during dynamic, high-functioning movements. If you have a fear of falling, talk to your family and care network about better equipping the home to prevent falls and seek counseling as necessary to help deal with your anxiety.

Check Your Diet

Are you filling up with bone and muscle-building foods throughout the day? Are you properly hydrated? Not getting enough proper nutrition and water throughout the day can lead to symptoms like fatigue, lightheadedness, brain fog, and even disorientation that all contribute to falling. In the long-term as well, not eating a diet tailored to helping you both get enough calories for energy as well as consume nutrients vital to keeping your bones and muscles strong, like protein and calcium, can compound muscle weakness and increase the risk of fracture should a fall happen.