If you snooze, you actually do not lose! Getting a restful night’s sleep is important for having a healthy body and mind. Sleep struggles are common and may get worse with age; however, there may be some things you can do to help improve your sleep. March is National Sleep Awareness Month and a great time to reflect on your sleep habits and ways to wake up feeling refreshed.
Do Seniors Need Less Sleep?
It is a myth that older adults require less sleep than younger individuals. According to the Sleep Foundation, the recommended amount of sleep time for all adults, regardless of age, is between 7-9 hours. Although the amount of sleep needed has not changed, many older adults have a harder time getting enough sleep. Aging can affect people differently so it is important to understand if and why you may be experiencing sleep issues.
The Value of a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep does amazing things for your body. It supports brain function and regulates your mood, metabolism and memory formation. Additionally, the Sleep Foundation identified that regular sleep is a key treatment for age-related dementia and can help slow its decline. Prioritizing your sleep can play a powerful role in your overall health.
Common Sleep Issues with Age
With age come changes to your body that can take a toll on your sleep pattern. The American Sleep Association reports about half of all people aged 65 and older have frequent sleeping problems. Many sleep issues are linked to medical conditions like insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Older adults also tend to have trouble sleeping due to pain and some medications.
There are many reasons older adults might have trouble sleeping. No matter the cause, lack of sleep can put your health at risk, leading to more issues as well as: 
- More falls and other accidents
- Memory problems and forgetfulness
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
Getting older does not mean you have to accept being tired as part of your daily routine. Remember to talk with your healthcare team and follow their advice to ensure you are getting the sleep you need. These tips, which spell out SLEEP so they’re easier to remember, may help you rest easier.
Structure: The National Sleep Foundation suggests that a regular sleep schedule can help sync your body clock, which dictates when you feel sleepy or awake. In other words, keep your schedule consistent by going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning, even on weekends or when you are traveling. Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening as that may contribute to sleep-wake issues.
Lighting: A body’s internal clock is affected by different lighting and is wired to align with the sunrise and sunset. Be mindful of the time you spend indoors and your exposure to artificial lighting like fluorescent lights. Too much exposure to artificial lighting can lower melatonin (a hormone our bodies make to help with sleep) and increase nighttime waking. If you are more likely to spend time indoors, make a point to get sunlight exposure during the day and reduce indoor lighting before bedtime.
Eliminate Discomfort: People who suffer from chronic pain like rheumatoid arthritis or traditional issues like back pain know firsthand how difficult it can be to fall asleep. Pain can determine a person’s primary sleep position on their side, back or stomach. Try using an orthopedic foam pillow* or a mattress designed to cushion pressure points and support the natural curve of the spine. Some medications may also make you feel sick or cause insomnia. If this is the case, consult your doctor about your dosage, a different medication, taking your medication at a different time of day or trying a supplement to help you sleep.
Exercise: Physical activity coincides with your sleep. Being active during the day can help reduce stress and the time it takes to fall sleep. On the flip side, being well-rested can help motivate you to exercise during the day. Low-impact fitness like yoga, light stretching and breathing exercises are great ways to ease tension and wind down for bed.
Prioritize: Make it a goal to get more sleep. You can track your sleep with a sleep diary or wearable device that has the technology to monitor your sleep health. These tools may help you track:
- The time you fall asleep or wake, including naps
- The time and length of exercise
- Your caffeine intake (times and amounts)
- When and what you eat
- When you take medications
- The type of day (such as daily activities, social engagements, etc.)
If you are having sleep struggles, it is time to do something about it. There are many reasons you may be failing to get a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, there are many ways you can take control of your sleeping habits. Make a plan to talk with a doctor and get the help you need.
 Sleep Foundation (2021). How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
 Sleep.org (2022). How Sleep Works. https://www.sleep.org/how-sleep-works
 Sleep Foundation (2021). Dementia and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/dementia-and-sleep
 American Sleep Association. What is Sleep and Why is it Important? https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/what-is-sleep/
 National Institute on Aging. A Good Night's Sleep Infographic. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/infographics/getting-good-nights-sleep
 National Sleep Foundation (2020). Understanding Circadian Rhythms. https://www.thensf.org/what-is-a-circadian-rhythm/
 Sleep Foundation (2020). Aging and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/aging-and-sleep
 Sleep Foundation (2020). Light and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/light-and-sleep
 Sleep Foundation (2020). Pain and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/pain-and-sleep
 National Institute on Aging (2020). A Good Night’s Sleep. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/good-nights-sleep
 Sleep Foundation (2021). Exercise and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity/exercise-and-sleep
* Other pharmacies are available in our network. Visit elixirinsurance.com and select LOCATE PHARMACY for a complete list.
S7694_22-6799_enewsletter 2022_C Reviewed 03/14/22
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