Improving Sleep for Seniors

Check out these problems and solutions for seniors to get a good night’s sleep.

Have you ever had a bad night’s sleep and struggled the next day? We all know how helpful it is to rest well and wake up refreshed. Especially as we age, our body needs to have appropriate rest in order to have energy and move well each day. Likewise, as we get older our propensity for chronic disease and health issues increase, and many of those issues may be managed better by sleeping well. Alternately, our health problems can be impacted negatively if we are not able to sleep well, especially on a regular basis. According to sleep and health research performed by Stone and Xiao, 2018, limited sleep and poor quality sleep have been found to impact cardiovascular health, cognitive health, diabetes, weight gain, and even mental health.

The variables that can affect the sleep of a senior.

Our sleep health can be impacted by a variety of things. Physical pain, difficulty getting in and out of bed for bathroom access, frequent urination, restless legs, breathing issues, and hormone imbalance to name a few. The set up of your bedroom and equipment that you use for sleep can help. The solutions may have a positive effect on your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and help you to feel better when you awaken. Mattress firmness, bed height, furniture set up, pillow use and placement, lighting, sounds, and helpful safety equipment can all contribute to better sleep. Talking with your physician and health care team about medical concerns may allow you to find solutions to health issues that reduce your ability to sleep. Check out this article with detailed information on sleep apnea written by a Pharmacist!

An occupational or physical therapist can help improve safety through education and equipment.

Occupational and physical therapists have a vital role in helping keep seniors independent and safe. They also have extensive education in home safety, home set up, safety with positioning and movement, and mobility in the home and bedroom. Sleep positioning, pain management, and finding equipment to increase safety are all routine components of their evaluation and education with senior care. If pain or safety with night time mobility is an issue, consider discussing it with your physician to request a prescription for an OT or PT evaluation.

10 Principles for getting a good night sleep:

The following are general ideas for improving sleep that you can discuss with your health care team. Please see the medical disclaimer. Creative Home Therapy may contain affiliate links of products I recommend, and I may earn a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is very appreciated, and it allows me to produce helpful content for senior care! :). 

  1. Start with good neck support by using the right pillow. A person should not wake up with neck pain every morning. Your neck should be in good alignment (not extended back or flexed too far forward) whether lying on your side or on your back. You may need to ask someone to look at your alignment while you are in your sleeping position for feedback. It may take a few tries to find the right support. I personally use a down feather alternative pillow which allows me to change it’s form to support my neck as I change positions. (affiliate link)

2. If you are a side sleeper (which I recommend) you should keep a mildly firm body pillow from ankles to thigh, to upper arm support to protect your low back alignment. If your knee falls forward or your shoulder rotates, it causes rotation of your spine which can lead to pain (affiliate link):

3. Likewise, the correct mattress firmness is also important. While I was on vacation recently, I slept in 6 different hotels. 2 of the 6 beds allowed me to wake up pain free. the other 4 were too soft or too hard- I felt like Goldilocks! Too firm or too soft may cause morning back pain. Too soft may also contribute to someone sliding off while sitting on the edge. I have had many senior clients who have done that. If you are a family caregiver, please make sure your loved one has a good updated mattress with appropriate support, and not too high (difficult to climb up into) or too low (easy to slide off of when sitting). Many seniors also benefit from an adjustable bed base for improved breathing or leg elevation. Mine was a life saver during my long covid recovery, when I had difficulty lying flat to sleep: (affiliate link)

4. I have had clients with chronic shoulder pain relate excellent pain relief with this shoulder pillow support:

5. Use a bed side rail for keeping needed items close, for safety and support with getting in and out of bed, as well as for support with sitting on side of bed (affiliate link) :

6. Use adhesive hooks to keep remotes with cords close by, and to keep cords cleared away from walking area between bed and bathroom: (affiliate link)

7. Have a sturdy bedside table with easy access to a lamp, phone with emergency numbers, a glass of water, and a large numbered clock. (affiliate link)

8. Limit caffeine in the afternoon and evening.

9. Have a bedtime routine with calming activities.

10. Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom.

Other Posts You May Like:

Pain Control with Fewer Pills

Safety Equipment Recommendations

What objects or principles have helped you to get a good night sleep? I would love to hear what tips or tools you use! Please subscribe to the blog for a freebie pack of health printables, and weekly emails for making senior care easier and more effective!

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5 thoughts on “Improving Sleep for Seniors

  1. This is really great advice for seniors … and really anyone. Good sleep is so important! 🙂

  2. This is very important. We should always find ways to give extra care and comfort to our elderly’s.

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