• May 30, 2017 /  Miscelleaneous

    How Seniors Can Get Better Sleep
    As we age we often experience normal changes in our sleeping patterns, such as becoming sleepy earlier, waking up earlier, or enjoying less deep sleep. However, disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, and other symptoms of insomnia are not a normal part of aging. Sleep is just as important to our physical and emotional health as it was when we were younger.

    In fact, a good night’s sleep is especially important to older adults because it helps improve concentration and memory formation, allows your body to repair any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshes your immune system, which in turn helps to prevent disease. If you’re struggling in this area, but are unsure of what to do, here’s some advice to help you cope.

    Identify the Underlying Problems

    Many cases of insomnia are caused by underlying but very treatable causes.  By identifying all possible causes, you can tailor treatment accordingly. These are some common issues:

    • Poor sleep habits and sleep environment.These include irregular sleep hours, consumption of alcohol before bedtime, and falling asleep with the TV on. Make sure your room is comfortable, dark and quiet, and your bedtime rituals conducive to sleep.
    • Pain or medical conditions.Health conditions such as a frequent need to urinate, pain, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, nighttime heartburn, and Alzheimer’s can interfere with sleep. Talk to your doctor to address these issues directly.
    • Menopause and post menopause. During menopause, many women find that hot flashes and night sweats can interrupt sleep. Even post menopause, sleep problems can continue. Improving your daytime habits, especially diet and exercise, can help.
    • Older adults tend to take more medications than younger people and the combination of drugs, as well as their side effects, can impair sleep. Your doctor may be able to make changes to your medications to improve sleep. Never make these changes on your own, however.
    • Lack of exercise.If you are too sedentary, you may never feel sleepy or feel sleepy all the time. Regular aerobic exercise during the day can promote good sleep.
    • Significant life changes like the death of a loved one or moving from a family home can cause stress. Nothing improves your mood better than finding someone you can talk to face-to-face.
    • Lack of social engagement.Social activities, family, and work can keep your activity level up and prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. If you’re retired, try volunteering, joining a seniors’ group, or taking an adult education class.
    • Sleep disorders.Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and sleep-disordered breathing—such as snoring and sleep apnea – occur more frequently in older adults.
    • Lack of sunlight. Bright sunlight helps regulate melatonin and your sleep-wake cycles. Try to get at least two hours of sunlight a day. Keep shades open during the day or use a light therapy box, which are usually fairly inexpensive.

    How to Encourage Better Sleep

    • Naturally boost your melatonin levels.Artificial lights at night can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Use low-wattage bulbs where safe to do so, and turn off the TV and computer at least one hour before bed.
    • Don’t read from a backlit device at night (such as an iPad).If you use a portable electronic device to read, use an eReader that is not backlit, i.e. one that requires an additional light source. And when possible, a good old-fashioned book is the best way to read!
    • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool,and your bed is comfortable. Noise, light, and heat can cause sleep problems. Try using a sleep mask to help block out light.
    • Move bedroom clocks out of view.The light can disrupt your sleep and anxiously watching the minutes tick by is a surefire recipe for insomnia.

    Improve Sleep Through Exercise

    Exercise—especially aerobic activity—releases chemicals in your body that promote more restful sleep.

    There are countless activities you can do to prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep at the end of the day. But always consult your doctor before embarking on any new fitness program!

    • Water exercises– Swimming laps is a gentle way to build up fitness and is great for sore joints or weak muscles. Many community and YMCA pools have swim programs just for older adults, as well as water-based exercise classes.
    • Dance– If you love to move to music, go dancing or take a dance class. Dance classes are also a great way to extend your social network.
    • Golf– Golf is another exercise that doesn’t require vigorous movement. Walking adds an aerobic bonus and spending time on the course with friends can improve your mood, not to mention the melatonin boost from the sunlight.
    • Cycle or run– If you are in good shape, you can run and cycle until late in life. Both can be done outdoors or on a stationary bike or treadmill.

    If your own attempts to solve your sleep problems are unsuccessful, talk to your doctor. Keep a sleep diary and bring it with you. Write down when you use alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, and keep track of your medications, exercise, lifestyle changes, and recent stresses. Your doctor may then refer you to a sleep specialist or cognitive behavioral therapist for further treatment. You can get better sleep by taking control and being aware of what your body and mind need!

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  • May 9, 2017 /  Miscelleaneous

    7 Tools To Tackle Loneliness
    At any given time, roughly 60 million Americans, or at least one in five people, are feeling lonely, according to John T. Cacioppo, PhD, University of Chicago psychology professor, and co-author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry showed that seniors who are lonely are 64 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who weren’t lonely. Loneliness can even lead to long-term physical health problems, including dementia.

    What can you do to combat loneliness as a senior? Consider adding these tips into your figurative toolbox.

    • Make the effort to ask for regular visits

      You can ask your friends and family to come visit you. Don’t be afraid to ask for it, as most of them will be very willing to help you out! It’s all about human contact. Even if the visits don’t happen as often as you’d like, make the most of those that do. Go out for lunch, take a walk, and find another activity that makes you feel more connected to the outside world. Live in the moment!

    • Call someone for five minutes a day

      If you can’t visit in person, get into a regular habit of making a five-minute phone call every day. Ask a loved one if they can add this to their daily routine. A short and simple conversation can have a big effect on your mood, and it gives you something to look forward to every day. Be sure that you don’t only talk about yourself. Ask them about their day, and what’s going on in their life. This back-and-forth type of conversation is the most valuable kind you can have.

    • Utilize the internet

      A recent report from Age UK found that over a quarter of people aged 65+ who admitted to feeling lonely said that keeping in contact with family and friends via the web helped relieve feelings of isolation. If many of your friends or family members live too far away to visit in person, ask them to video chat with you. You can also send emails, whether daily or weekly, and feel like you’re still a part of their lives.

    • Look into opportunities in the local area

      Local community centers may offer older people a low-cost membership. From painting classes, to gentle exercise, most centers have something for everyone.

    • Push to get outside the house

      Be honest with yourself: how often do you leave your house? If your answer isn’t ideal, don’t despair! There are many large and small ways to get out there. Plant a garden. Join a walking group. Even doing something as simple as sitting on your porch, or in your backyard, where you can enjoy fresh air and whatever scenery your area has, can make a big difference in your life.

    • Connect with your local library

      Libraries are a good source of knowledge about local activities, so make sure you check noticeboards, or buy a local paper to find out about local charities and various groups. And the quiet peace of a library might be just what you need to feel connected with others, while still being able to enjoy some alone-time.

    • Consider a low maintenance pet

      Keeping a pet has been shown to have all sorts of mental, emotional and physical health benefits. Read my previous article, The Impact of Pets on a Senior’s Health, to learn more about how to decide if you should have a pet, and if so, what kind.

    When it comes to tackling loneliness, one must first recognize that it’s a problem. By reaching out to family, friends, and your community, you can enjoy the feeling of support that people of all ages need. You have more power than you might have realized! It’s not always easy to stay positive. By taking small steps, you can build yourself up until you reach a point where you have many tools at your disposal, and can take back control of your life.

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