Older people need around eight to ten hours of sleep every night. If your relative seems to be falling asleep earlier than usual or gets up at the crack of dawn, don’t be too concerned – sleep patterns change as we get older, but they should still get more than seven hours.
If your loved one is tired, irritable or seems to be distracted, tackle a sleep problem together…
Encourage a healthy sleep plan
Try out a few of these tips to find out what works best for your loved one:
- Establish a routine. You could try setting an alarm for your relative to get them up at the same time every morning, then encourage them to go to bed at the same time every night. Their body should begin to recognise the pattern and know when to switch off. In the morning, use a sunrise alarm clock to wake them more gently.
- Cut back on caffeine. If your relative drinks a lot of tea or coffee, they might struggle to wind down. Try herbal teas, hot squash, or decaf alternatives.
- Avoid naps. If your loved one takes regular naps, for too long, or too close to bedtime, it could affect their ability to sleep well at night. Help them avoid naps by keeping them busy or limit them to a 20-minute power nap.
- Exercise if possible. Help your relative take a form of exercise appropriate for older people. Just half an hour of walking or a gentle swim could send them off to sleep easier at night.
- Prepare for sleep. If daytime routines don’t seem to help, try a bedtime routine. Encourage your loved one to take a bath just before bed, read, practice deep breathing, or give them a massage to relax them.
- Turn off the TV. Watching TV right before bed can be disruptive. For this reason, don’t use a TV in the bedroom and make sure it’s turned off at least an hour before bedtime.
- Tackle distractions. If your loved one is peckish when they go to bed or needs the loo, they might not be able to nod off. A light snack an hour before bed could solve a hunger problem and they should visit the bathroom before they get changed for bed.
- Prepare the bedroom. Check the bedroom isn’t too hot and give your loved one a blanket in case they get cold. Use lamps and low wattage light bulbs for a more relaxing effect. If the room is too bright when the light goes out, consider using a blackout blind.
- Check for comfort. If your relative hasn’t changed their mattress in a while, check it’s still comfortable. Make sure bed clothes are loose and comfortable to sleep in too.
- Talk about worries. If you feel you’ve tried everything to get your loved one to sleep and they still have problems switching off, try chatting about any worries they might have. Talking will help reduce the worry so they can go to sleep without the distraction.
If your loved one has trouble falling to sleep every night, has regularly disturbed sleep and struggles to stay awake during the day, take them to see their GP. This could be a case of insomnia or a reaction to a medication they’re taking, rather than a lack of relaxation.
If you found these tips useful, please share them with others you know who are caring for a loved one.