By Beth Plutner
We’ve all had restless nights at some point in our lives. For some older people however, anxiety can make it nearly impossible to sleep. You want to be able to keep an eye on an elderly loved one with sleep and anxiety problems, but you may be too busy or not know what to do. At Wejob.org, we can help you. We have virtual caregivers who will help you and your loved one in your time of need. Our experienced professionals will do whatever it takes to help your loved one get a better night’s sleep.
Symptoms of anxiety in older adults
Having some anxiety is a perfectly normal reaction to danger. However, anxiety can be a problem if it occurs too often and/or is irrational. Some signs of anxiety in older adults include excessive worry, avoiding routine, sleep disruption, and sweating. If you notice any of these warning signs, try implementing the strategies in this article right away.
Fact: Anxiety increases a senior’s risk of illness, falls, and other injuries. Be sure to monitor your loved one carefully.
Symptoms of sleep anxiety
Sleep anxiety is different from anxiety you might have during the day. Sleep anxiety causes you to feel anxious as you’re getting ready for bed. This can cause feelings of unrest and worry at a time when you should feel more relaxed. Common symptoms of anxiety at night include having trouble getting to sleep, nightmares, and twitching. Either you or a virtual caregiver need to be the one to help your loved one get a stress-free night’s sleep.
Fact: Sleep can trigger anxiety, and vice versa. Help your loved one right away with these tips, so they don’t get caught in a vicious cycle.
Meditate for a more restful night’s sleep
One great way for a senior to reduce their anxiety is to practice meditation. Meditation helps to relax the body before sleep and reduce anxiety. A virtual caregiver can help your loved one if they have trouble starting out. Your loved one should start out with just a few minutes of meditation before bedtime. They should focus on clearing their mind and filtering out all negative thoughts.
Tip: It’s important for your loved one to focus on breathing. This should help them relax their body.
A vital companion can meditate with your loved one, to help them to focus and block out distractions.
Practice physical activity and exercise
Everyone knows it’s important to be active, but did you know it’s also a good way to help seniors sleep better? Exercise helps to reduce the production of stress hormones in the body. Being regularly active also releases endorphins, a feel-good chemical in your brain that will make seniors feel less stressed. If you hire one of our virtual companions, they can help create the right exercise program for your loved one. The two of them can even exercise together!
Tip: Try to aim for exercises with moderate intensity. Vigorous activity right before bed can make it harder for your loved one to fall asleep.
Fact: A study has shown regular exercise to be a key factor in helping people fall asleep faster.
Wind down at night
In order for a senior to get a good night’s sleep, they need to feel relaxed. One of the best ways for them to do that is to create a wind down routine at night. Such routines include taking a warm bath or reading a good book can help your loved one to feel more relaxed. A virtual companion should help your loved one take a bath so they don’t injure themselves, or read their favorite book to them. Doing these activities over time will help to make them part of a senior’s relaxation routine.
Tip: Avoid screens like computers or tv before bed. These activities can increase a senior’s excitement and make it harder for them to go to sleep.
Tip: Calming music can also help a senior to wind down. It can either be played while they’re getting ready for bed or as they sleep.
Another important part of a senior’s general well-being is eating the right foods. Eating a wide variety of healthy foods is important to help to reduce stress in seniors. Serotonin is another chemical made by the brain that can boost a senior’s mood. This is best consumed from complex carbs like whole-grain breads and cereals. Eating foods high in Vitamin C such as oranges have been shown to reduce the presence of a stress hormone called cortisol. Green, leafy vegetables like spinach are high in magnesium, which reduces headaches and stress.
Tip: If your loved one lives alone, it can be hard for them to remember what foods to eat. A virtual caregiver can monitor your loved one’s diet so they can eat the foods they need to.
Tip: Create a chart that lists all of the foods your loved one should be eating.
Limit a senior’s caffeine intake
If a senior is too overstimulated at night, they’ll feel too stressed out and excited to be able to sleep. The most common type of stimulant is caffeine. Caffeine can be found in coffee, chocolate, tea, and soft drinks. Too much caffeine can interrupt the timing of the body’s clock, making it hard for a senior to fall asleep. Caffeine also causes an increase in heart and breathing rates and tremors, making seniors too anxious to be able to sleep. To help a senior sleep easier, caffeine should not be given late in the afternoon and in the evening. You and the caregiver need to monitor your loved one’s caffeine intake to make sure they don’t have too much too often.
Tip: Other substances that can make it hard for a senior to fall asleep at night are alcohol and certain medications like venlafaxine and donepezil. Don’t have a senior drink alcohol an hour before bedtime. Administer medication no later than the evening.
Seek professional help
If you’ve tried these methods and they aren’t working, it’s time to call in the professionals. A healthcare professional can try different types of therapy to help ease your loved one’s anxiety. One such therapy method is cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (Or CBT) identifies negative thinking that can increase your loved one’s anxiety and figures out ways to stop it. This in turn, will help them to get a better night’s sleep.
Tip: Ask your loved one’s companion if they know any professionals who can help.
Do you have an elderly loved one that needs care? Unable to be for them all the time due to work or other commitments? Then you need a virtual care companion! Here at WeJob.org and WeJob.org/seniors, we care about helping take care of the elderly in all ways possible. Our companions are trained to take care of the elderly as if they were their own family. Your loved one will be given entertainment, companionship, and a guardian. For more information, go to https://wejob.org/virtual-care-for-seniors.
https://chartwell.com/. (n.d.). Find the right retirement residence for you. 7 tips for older adults to ease anxiety. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://chartwell.com/en/blog/2020/02/7-tips-for-older-adults-to-ease-anxiety
Casper Editorial Team. (2021, August 12). 11 sleep anxiety tips: How to calm anxiety at night. Casper Blog. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://casper.com/blog/sleep-anxiety-guide/
Zelman, K. M. (2021, November 16). Diet for stress management: Carbs, nuts, and other stress-relief foods. WebMD. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-diet-for-stress-management#:~:text=Foods%20can%20help%20tame%20stress,on%20the%20body%20over%20time.
Sleep and caffeine. Sleep Education. (2013, August 1). Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://sleepeducation.org/sleep-caffeine/#:~:text=Caffeine%20can%20have%20a%20disruptive,reduce%20your%20total%20sleep%20time.
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