As We Age, Healthy Sleep Without Prescription Drugs

Assisted Living, Senior Care, Senior Living Leave a comment , ,

Numerous surprising new products help restore and improve slumber for older adults who don’t want to resort to drug therapy.

Many seniors have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. As we age, insomnia increases due to various factors, including the use of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol; poor sleep habits; medications; and disease.

Particularly as we enter our 50s and beyond, the amount of slow-wave sleep (a.k.a. “deep sleep”) we get decreases. This occurs even if we are still getting a good eight hours of sleep a night. It’s considered to be important for memory consolidation and processing. Studies of sleep deprivation with human volunteers suggest that the most important function of slow-wave sleep is brain recovery from the daily stress of mental activity.

Insomnia is the inability to experience restorative sleep, and it’s a problem for about half of adults over the age of 60 in the U.S. Insomnia may result from an inability to fall asleep, or multiple episodes of wakefulness during the night. It can even happen if you wake too early and are unable to get back to sleep. Whatever the cause, insomnia leads to a feeling of exhaustion and “brain fog” the next day.

Primary insomnia is a condition that arises independently, but older adults often tack on secondary insomnia due to medical conditions or the side effects of prescription medications.

Sleeplessness should not be taken lightly. The condition has been linked to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. New research even points to sleeplessness as a cause of cognitive dysfunction, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Researchers have found that the protein deposits that are characteristic of this cognitive disease may clear during deep sleep.

You may be able to modify your habits and/or environment to get a better night’s rest without resorting to drugs or technical sleep aids. Altering even one of these may be the key to improved rest, so make sure you can tick off each item before you give up. Even if you need further adjustments, you will have created a solid foundation.

Behavioral modifications:

  • Don’t nap during the day.
  • Don’t use your bed for activities like reading or watching TV.
  • Exercise every day.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, especially within four hours of bedtime.


Environmental modifications:

  • Keep the bedroom very dark at night.
  • Keep the bedroom quiet.
  • Make sure the temperature and humidity are conducive to sleep.
  • Use comfortable bedding.
  • Get plenty of light exposure during the day.

If these modifications don’t work, other options include medications.  There is a plethora of pills that doctors prescribe to help induce or extend sleep. Check this list of pharmaceutical sleep aids.

For those not wishing to use medications, there are several recent developments to counter sleep-onset insomnia that look appealing.  Click on the links for additional information about each.

  • Ebb Insomnia Therapy.  Created by a doctor, this device “gently cools the forehead” to a temperature within a therapeutic range to reduce abnormal elevations in frontal cortex metabolism that can inhibit sleep.
  • Nightingale. If troublesome noises are a problem, Cambridge Sound’s Nightingale may be the answer, even if you’ve tried other noise machines. Dual units work in tandem to create a sound curve, immersing the room to mask disruptive noises. 
  • Kortex. This general wellness device combines virtual reality (VR) with neurostimulation that “stimulates the brain to produce serotonin and melatonin while lowering cortisol” to enhance sleep.
  • 2breathe. Leveraging the known benefits of slow breathing and soothing music, this smart device and app pair guided breathing with a wireless respiration sensor and real-time coaching technology. 

Source:  Society of Certified Senior Advisors Blog:  Wednesday, May 29, 2019

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