7 Tips for Improving Sleep Quality in the Elderly

Written By: William Rivers
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: August 28, 2023
Last updated: December 29, 2023

When you age, it’s common for your sleeping patterns to evolve differently from that of your younger years.

While some of these new sleeping patterns are normal, a few of these developments can be quite harmful to your health.

For instance, you could be sleeping more lightly than usual, causing you to feel fatigued the next day.

You could also be suffering from frequent waking episodes in the middle of the night, which also leads to poor sleep.

When you’re older, your health naturally becomes more delicate—and adopting good lifestyle habits is crucial for maintaining good quality health.

Sleeping well is one such habit that elderly people should follow. When you get enough sleep, you give your body and mind enough time to reset and recharge for the days ahead.

If you’re having trouble sleeping well every night, or if you find yourself constantly feeling lethargic in the morning, don’t worry. This article will give you some useful and actionable tips to get a good night’s sleep consistently.

1. Avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon

Many of us can’t get through the day without caffeine to pick us up, but if you find yourself maintaining a habit of drinking coffee in the late afternoon, you better reconsider that habit.

Drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, black tea, and energy drinks beyond noon can interfere with your sleep cycle. This is because caffeine inhibits adenosine receptors, which are responsible for making us drowsy. 

For most adults, it takes up to 10 hours before the body completely metabolizes caffeine from your bloodstream. That said, senior folks have an even slower metabolism, causing caffeine to linger in the bloodstream for much longer.

So if you want to avoid fruitless sleep attempts, consider skipping that mid-afternoon coffee break. Your body will thank you for it!

2. Establish a consistent bedtime routine

Many people operate their best on schedules and orderliness—and this can’t be any more true when it comes to sleep. Establishing a sleep schedule helps your body get in the groove of when to sleep and when to wake because of its internal clock called the circadian rhythm.

When you sleep at the same time every night, your body will learn to feel tired during that time in the subsequent nights. This can make it easier for your body to wind down and get ready for bed.

Furthermore, performing nightly rituals like reading a book or taking a perfumed bath an hour before bedtime can all make it easier for your body to drift into slumber. That said, be sure that the activity you partake in helps induce sleep, that is, avoid using electronics or eating heavy meals late at night.

3. Explore natural remedies for relaxation

It’s completely valid to use sleep aids to help you achieve some restful shut-eye. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of natural remedies that can help promote the right conditions to make you sleep.

For instance, instead of coffee, consider drinking chamomile tea or warm milk to help calm your brain by stimulating a sleep-promoting hormone known as tryptophan.

You may also consider taking Melatonin supplements. These supplements are useful for getting your body accustomed to sleeping at certain periods at night. This is something our body naturally produces in response to reduced light exposure, and taking them in pill form can help the body fall asleep much more quickly.

4. Address any medical conditions

Your sleepless nights might be more complex than a simple case of incessantly tossing and turning. In some cases, you could be suffering from underlying health conditions such as sleep apnea that could be adversely interfering with your ability to achieve a good night’s rest.

Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders aren’t remedied by simply following tips online. These conditions are often serious enough to the point that you will need medical treatment and the right supplies to help you manage these conditions (follow this link to learn more).

If you’re unsure where to start, a somnologist or psychologist can help address any sleep-related concerns you may have, whether it’s sleep apnea or insomnia. From there, they can help lead you to a comprehensive diagnosis. 

5. Adjust your diet for better sleep

When you grow older, your body becomes more sensitive to the food you ingest. Eating the right food can help you obtain enough nourishment to perform daily tasks that require energy. This philosophy also applies when we attempt to decompress for the day, that is, sleep.

A balanced diet is crucial for your sleep time for several reasons. For one, certain foods contain natural sleep-promoting chemicals. Foods rich in key minerals like tryptophan, magnesium, and melatonin (turkey, nuts, seeds, and cherries, to name a few) can make it easier for you to relax and vastly improve sleep quality overall.

Secondly, eating hearty meals close to bedtime can incite stomach discomfort, particularly indigestion or heartburn. This can interfere with both your waking hours and sleep. To minimize this, consider finishing eating at least 2-3 hours before your planned bedtime.

6. Limit daytime napping

Experiencing disturbed sleep patterns every night can make you feel tired during the day. And during these moments of tiredness, it’s easy to want to just crumple on the bed and take a power nap.

However, doing so can be quite detrimental to your sleep quality over the long term. While a short nap can provide a boost of energy, it can also make it difficult for you to sleep adequately during the night. 

Sleeping during the night is the most restorative form of rest since it allows you to enter the various stages of the sleep cycle. This essentially reboots your brain and makes you ready for the next day. 

If you don’t get enough of it, your sleep quality will dip hard—so do try to muster a day without napping.

7. Engage in physical activity

Don’t make your age an excuse—exercising is something that you should consider doing regularly if you aim to sleep like a baby when nighttime comes around.

Regular exercise helps regulate the body's natural circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep patterns and ensuring you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. Exercise also raises our core body temperature, and during the “cool-down” phase, our body becomes more sleepy.

Furthermore, cardio exercises like running, cycling, and swimming all help you enter deeper sleep. This doesn’t only help us feel more well-rested, but it also improves our immune function, cardiac health, and stress reduction.

For elderly individuals, achieving 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week is ideal to reap the sleep benefits. That said, be sure to get cleared by a healthcare professional before you make a major shift in your lifestyle.

Was this article helpful?
William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
After years of living under the care of your parents and other family members, the time will arrive for you to reciprocate. At Senior Strong, you can show your loved ones just how much you value them.
642 W 28th St, Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 877-8342
Senior Strong © Copyright 2024, All Rights Reserved