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A Good Night's Sleep Helps to Prevent Falls among Seniors

January 6, 2015

As we get old, our risk of suffering from a fall increases. In the USA, one in every three Americans over 65 years of age suffers a fall each year. This means that in a year, about ten million falls take place. Though many of these falls don't cause serious injuries, a reasonable number of them may require a stay in the hospital. According to some studies, almost 10,000 Americans age 65 years or above die each year due to injuries caused by falling.

For seniors suffering a fall, hip fractures are a common occurrence, and it can force them to stay in the hospital for a long time. What's astonishing is that over a quarter of a million Americans aged 65 years or more break a hip each year, the majority of which are caused by falling. Apart from the physical discomfort that a fall causes, the emotional and psychological trauma that it may trigger can't be ignored.

I have seen many elders living in constant fear of suffering an injuryl and asking themselves the question time and again: "What will happen if I fall?" Many of these people restrict their movements and other activities to steer clear of a fall, and some even feel so embarrassed that they won't even talk about it. Such fear and embarrassment can't help but adversely affect their quality of life.

We can't prevent all falls, but we can do something to bring down the numbers. Having adequate sleep at night is one thing that can go a long way in preventing falls.

Why Is a Good Night's Sleep Important for Seniors?

A good night's sleep is important for the physical and emotional well-being not just of seniors, but everyone. Getting adequate sleep becomes even more important as we age, though, because it helps boost memory and concentration. Thus, more sleep lets seniors enjoy improved clarity of mind so that they can stay alert to prevent slips and falls. A good night's sleep also helps in repairing any cell damage that might have occurred during the day and strengthens the immune system, both of which can bring down the occurrence of diseases.

Several research studies have shown that elders who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and problems related to attention and memory. These people are also prone to more nighttime falls than their counterparts who sleep well. Apart from increasing the risk of suffering falls, insufficient sleep may even trigger serious health problems in elders like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and weight problems, to name just a few.

So, if you want to live an active life during your golden years and not get bogged down by the fear of falls and slips, my advice is to take steps to improve your quality of sleep.

Sleep Requirements of Seniors

For healthy adults, the duration of sleep at night can vary from 7.5 to 9 hours. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health suggested that as compared to younger adults, healthy older people may need about 1.5 hours less sleep each night than the average limit of 7.5 hours. The study also indicated that most elders may sleep even less, mostly because age-related changes in their body decrease their ability to fall or remain asleep. However, many doctors say that rather than focusing on the hours of sleep, elders should concentrate on their quality of sleep. So, how you feel after a night's sleep should give you an indication of how well you have slept.

Improving Your Sleep
Since a good night's sleep can bring down the risk of slips and falls in elders, it becomes important to improve the quality of it. Here are a few tips that can help you enjoy quality sleep:
  1. Improve your daytime activities: Exercise regularly and keep yourself engaged in various activities during the day to enhance your quality of sleep. Limiting your intake of caffeine late in the day and not consuming alcohol before bedtime are other steps to ensure a good night's sleep.
  2. Create a sleep-friendly environment: Light, noise, and heat can hinder your sleep. So switch off bright lights, your TV, and your mobile phone at least an hour before going to bed. I would also advise making your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, and using a comfortable bed to sleep well. I have seen some elders sleep well with an eye mask on as it helps to block out the light. You too can use one if you feel comfortable.
  3. Sticking to a regular bedtime schedule: Going to bed and waking up at a specific time each day will help your body go into sleep mode more easily. Such a schedule should be adhered to even on the weekends.
  4. Developing bedtime rituals: Playing soothing music, taking a bath prior to sleep, or deep breathing can help you sleep better. You may even try other stress management and relaxation techniques to wind down.
  5. Limit your intake of sleeping pills: Though sleeping pills may seem tempting, you shouldn't depend on them as long-term usage can often worsen insomnia. Rather, stay active throughout the day, and get engaged in things that please you and give your life a sense of worth. In this way, you will automatically feel tired and sleepy when it's time to go to bed.

Medical Alarm Devices as Precautions

Even though, all of these efforts can help you enhance your sleep quality tremendously, and therefore prevent falls by keeping you more alert during the day, there are always unexpected situations that you won't be able to avoid that can cause slips and falls. So, the truth is that in this matter you can never be too safe. Investing in a medical alarm device that can be worn as a wristwatch or pendant can be of great assistance during these kind of emergencies. These one-touch devices can alert the customer service representative in case you suffer from a slip and fall, and that person will send medical help your way, as well as inform your family about the incident. With a medical alarm device serving as a kind of security blanket, you can live life the way you want, away from the fear and uncertainty of what might happen if you get injured while alone at home. When help is just a push of a button away, it can't help but provide peace of mind.

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