How to Help Your Dad Sleep Better
There is a common myth that as you get older you ‘need less sleep’. However, the truth is that as we get older we find it harder to both fall asleep and stay asleep. Along with the physical changes that occur, as we get older, changes in our sleep ‘architecture’ are part of the normal ageing process. This means older people spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep. What’s more, the older we get the more we tend to have broken sleep, sometimes due to nighttime toilet visits (nocturia), and the earlier we tend to wake up in the morning. This means that we have a decrease in quality and quantity of sleep.
Here are our sleep expert’s top ten tips to help dads sleep better…
1. Swap coffee from Green Tea
As one gets older the liver’s clearance of caffeine naturally reduces. If your father has trouble getting to sleep, I would suggest that he completely eliminates coffee rather than just avoiding it in the afternoon. If he needs a caffeine boost in the mornings, try Green Tea instead, as it contains Theanine, which helps promote sleep.
2. Bath before bed
Your body expects a drop in air temperature as the sun goes down. This helps signal to your brain and body clock that the time to go to sleep is getting close. You can mimic this affect by having a warm bath about 45 minutes before bedtime.
3. Healthy Gut bacteria and probiotics
There is increasing evidence that the health of our gut bacteria is related to our sleep. Taking probiotics and foods such as natural yoghurt, which contain healthy gut bacteria, can help maintain the health of our gut microbiome.
4. Control day and night
Our body is designed to go to sleep when it gets dark and wake up in the morning sunlight. At night, try dimming the lights before bedtime and avoid technology for the last hour before bed, as both stimulate the brain. Technology also emits ‘blue–light’, which comes from the screens, mimics sunlight and keeps us awake. Use black out blinds to prevent the early morning light from waking you too early and try using a dawn stimulator such as the Lumie Bodyclock, which is a great natural way to wake up.
5. Learn to meditate
Most of us find that stress is the main factor that both keeps us awake and wakes us from sleep. Relaxation techniques and mindfulness can be a great way to combat stress.
6. Check the side effects of any medication
As we get older, some of us must take long-term medication for the heart, blood pressure and cholesterol issues amongst others. It is always worth checking what the side effects of these medications have on sleep and perhaps ask the GP to swap to those with a lower impact if sleep is an issue.
6. Avoid alcohol
Whilst alcohol can help sedate us and get us to sleep, it disrupts the deeper stages of REM sleep (when we dream and process our memory etc.) and leads to a reduced quality of sleep. Older adults seem to be more sensitive to alcohol’s disruptive impact on sleep quality.
8. Be wary of napping
Daytime napping is one way older adults, especially those who are retired, catch up on reduced nightly sleep. However, napping could also be preventing you from getting to sleep at night. If insomnia persists, try to avoid napping for a period to see if this helps reset your body clock.
9. Get checked for Sleep Apnoea especially if you wake up regularly at night and snore
Snoring is most often associated with people who are overweight and it tends to become worse with age. Loud snoring is particularly serious, as not only does it wake both partners up, it can also be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA is a serious condition, which is associated with high blood pressure and other health problems. Those with OSA, stop breathing for as long as 10-60 seconds, which alerts the brain, causing brief waking and a return to breathing. This often occurs repeatedly throughout the night and results in excessive daytime sleepiness and impaired daytime function. If your dad experiences snoring on a regular basis and it can be heard from another room, or if he has been told he stops breathing or makes loud/gasping noises during his sleep, he needs to get checked by his GP for sleep Apnoea.
10. Exercise outside if possibleExercise in general has been proven to help sleep quality. Exercising outdoors is even better as it helps with our daily dose of sunlight, which helps promote sleep.