better sleep

You may think that only people who can stand on their heads or touch their toes can practice yoga. Well, it’s time to think again! Yoga boasts a slew of benefits for seniors, from managing arthritis pain to balancing mood and emotions. And you don’t have to have been practicing for decades to reap these rewards. Studies show the benefits of yoga can be felt within just a few short weeks of regular practice.

Even though you understand the benefits, there may still be something holding you back. For many seniors, it’s a combination of time, support and money. Yoga classes cost money and take time, often requiring us to catch rides to and from a gym or studio. While these are totally reasonable obstacles, they can be easily overcome. Here are 10 ways to help seniors build a strong, sustainable yoga practice.

Senior Travel-Pixabay(qimono)

Photo by Pixabay (qimono)

#10 Check out Silver Sneakers: Your Medicare plan may cover some or all of the costs of joining a gym that provides yoga classes. Ask your health plan advisor for information on Silver Sneakers, which are fitness classes offered at gyms all across the nation and catered specifically to seniors. All classes are led by a certified instructor to ensure your safety, with the added benefit that they can easily cater the class to your needs and abilities.

#9 Look for Senior Discounts: Gyms and studios often run discounts and specials just for seniors to help them get access to the classes they need for preventative care and health. You can even check out coupon and discount websites like Groupon to find affordable deals, or give them a call to ask about specials. You may also come across some that run ads in your local newspaper. If you have a local studio in mind, stop by and express your interest in learning yoga. They may offer you a free class to help gauge your interest or offer you a coupon or discounted price.

#8 Make a Home Studio: Clear out a room in your home for a daily yoga practice. If you have furniture or boxes gathering dust in an unused bedroom, put them in storage. Another idea is to use your dining room for your yoga space. According to Angie’s List, many people have found alternative uses for their dining room as only 23 percent of homeowners routinely eat meals in this room. Once you’ve cleared a space, store your yoga mat nearby so that it’s always ready. Bring in some relaxing additions such as a scented candle, greenery, or artwork.

#7 Watch Yoga Videos: There are hundreds of free online yoga videos from certified professionals. You can follow along as they practice or watch videos that break down poses so you can work on safe alignment. You can also purchase yoga DVDs in the electronics or fitness section at most stores such as Walmart or Target, making practicing yoga as easy as popping in a DVD.

#6 Focus on Your Breath: If you can breathe then, guess what? You are practicing yoga! Try to pair your movements to an inhale and exhale. You can do this when walking, washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. Mindfulness is central to yoga’s mental health benefits. Sit in a comfy chair or in a seated position on the floor and clear your mind of any intruding thoughts so that you can pay attention to nothing but your breathing. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly for 10 minutes to start or end your day.

#5 Download a Free Meditation App: There are dozens of well-reviewed free meditation apps that you can download to your phone or tablet. You can use these to learn more about meditation, start a basic practice and to encourage and track your progress.

#4 There are Yoga Apps, Too! You can download yoga apps for your phone or tablet that you can use for free. Try to make it social by inviting your friends to use the app or practicing with your caregiver or a family member. Once you get the hang of it and learn what moves work best for you, you can create your own routine to follow.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)

#3 Focus on One Pose: Instead of jumping into a whole series or flow, just focus on one or a handful of poses at a time. You can do them while watching television or after you first wake up. Keep it simple and move deeper into the pose as time allows. Yoga takes time and practice, so don’t be discouraged if you struggle at first. Start with simple moves and use props such as a chair for extra assistance. Should you decide you’d like to try more advanced moves, attend a class first to make sure you are doing it correctly and aren’t at risk of injuring yourself.

#2 Try a Work Share Arrangement: Many yoga studios and gyms will provide free classes in exchange for help watching the register and cleaning the studio. Talk to studios near you to find one that is interested in this kind of partnership.

#1 Take Classes with Friends: Whether you are paying for a class or going to the gym, practicing with friends can reduce the risk of senior isolation and make yoga more fun—and make it more likely you will stick with it. Plus, you can carpool with your friends, which is especially helpful if driving is a concern for you.

Yoga helps seniors stay healthy in both mind and body, and is also a fun, yet relaxing way to spend time alone or with friends. Try out any one of the tips above to make these your golden years for health and fitness.

Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

Slowing down as you get older may feel like a natural part of aging, however, chronic fatigue and dissipating energy levels shouldn’t be ignored. If you or someone you care for is feeling more and more tired each day and simply wiped out, you won’t want to miss this guide on recognizing fatigue in older adults and what to do about it:

Common Causes of Fatigue

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Mohamed_hassan)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Mohamed_hassan)

You might be surprised to learn that it’s more than physical exhaustion that can lead a senior to feel fatigued and lacking energy. Common causes of fatigue in older adults may include:

  • Medication side effects – medicines that are commonly taken for things like allergies, pain, nausea, and depression can have side effects that make you tired, zap your energy levels, and even contribute to brain fog.

  • Stress, anxiety, and depression – emotional stress that comes with things like grief over the loss of a loved one, difficulty hearing, financial woes, and loss of independence can manifest in very physical ways including fatigue and diminished energy.

  • Sleep deprivation – lack of sleep has been linked to everything from bad moods and fatigue to increased risk for Alzheimer’s. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults over 65 get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.

  • Poor diet – malnutrition, or not getting adequate nutrients in your diet, can be a source of fatigue, weakness, and even increase your susceptibility to getting sick. For example, anemia (low iron) can definitely exacerbate feelings of tiredness. At the same time, consuming lots of food that is primarily “junk” or fatty, processed, fried foods can do the same thing.

  • Medical treatments and surgery – common treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation used to treat cancer, can cause severe fatigue as can recovering from a major surgery like a knee or hip replacement.

  • Alcohol consumption – 2.5 million older adults in the U.S. have an alcohol or drug abuse problem and both contribute to not just poor health but chronic fatigue as well. Alcohol especially can interact with medication you may be taking, inhibit proper nutrient absorption from the food you eat and change your behavior and thinking skills.

  • Boredom – is your day lacking the pep and vigor it once had when you were working or more mobile? Waking to a long day ahead that has little planned or scheduled can make you feel lackluster and tired.

  • Dehydration – dehydration continues to be a leading cause of hospitalization in adults over 65 and symptoms can often be confused with fatigue. Disorientation, low energy levels, and brain fog might actually be an indication that your body is low on fluids.

Does Low Blood Pressure Cause Fatigue?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Gadini)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Gadini)

In short, not really. A sudden and severe blood pressure drop can definitely foster symptoms of dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, and fainting. However, chronically low blood pressure will not be the sole source of your fatigue. Sometimes a medication you are taking for low blood pressure can cause fatigue (like some beta blockers), however, if you are experiencing chronically low blood pressure, you should talk to your doctor right away.

In addition to treating you for low blood pressure by adjusting medications or modifying your diet, your doctor may also encourage you to practice accurate blood pressure monitoring at home with an easy-to-use digital blood pressure monitor that records readings and alerts you to high and low spikes – check out this helpful list. A sudden drop in blood pressure can be life-threatening so if you or someone you care for has one, get to a hospital as soon as possible.

Tips for Preventing Fatigue

Avoid long naps and late-day caffeine fixes – keep your afternoon naps to 30 minutes or less and avoid drinking caffeine after lunchtime. This can not only help you fall asleep faster come bedtime but improve the quality of your sleep too so you wake rested and energized.

Address bad habits – quitting smoking is practically the best thing you can do for your health in general, no matter your age or health status. But, it can also fight fatigue by lowering your risk for tiresome lifestyle conditions like breathing problems and heart disease. Cutting excessive alcohol consumption can do the same thing.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (MabelAmber)1

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (MabelAmber)1

Exercise regularly – it might seem like ‘rest’ should be on order if you are feeling fatigued, however, it’s the opposite that is true. Routine exercise helps to increase your appetite and improve your sleep as well as make you stronger, more flexible, and well, happier – all things that can bolster energy levels.

Keep a daily journal – recognizing patterns of fatigue will most aptly help you and the person you care for address them. Note diet, exercise, and nightly sleep habits as well as the times of day when you feel most fatigued and then start a conversation with your doctor to address it.

Lack of sleep can have serious negative consequences for both your physical and mental health and this is especially true for seniors. Studies on sleep and people over the age of 65 show that poor quality sleep can:

  • Deteriorate memory and speed up dementia.
  • Increase the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular illnesses.
  • Adversely impact appetite, often increasing the risk of obesity.
  • Weaken the immune system, making seniors more vulnerable to the flu.

Older Americans often have trouble falling asleep, spend less time in REM sleep, and wake up more frequently during the night. If you are over the age of 65 and are experiencing one of these or other sleepless situations — or if you have drowsy days and don’t know why — this article has a few simple, smooth tips for getting better sleep.

Start a Bedtime Ritual

You may need to let your body — and brain — know that it is time to wind down. Nothing triggers yawns quite like creating a bedtime routine. You’ll want this to be something that relaxes your body and lets your brain settle down. Unfortunately, television, tablets, and smartphones do the opposite, so be sure to swap them out for a magazine, music, or a good book (but not one so good that you can’t put it down). Start your ritual an hour or two beforehand. Experiment with different techniques, such as taking a warm bath, using lavender body lotion, meditating for 20 minutes, or practicing relaxing yoga, until you find a combination that works.

Create a Sleepy Space

Is your bedroom filled with distractions, from TVs to bright lights? It could be that your environment is keeping you awake. You can tone things down a bit with some quick, easy, and inexpensive changes. Replace bright, harsh bulbs with soft lighting, and use a white noise or sound machine to block out noisy neighbors.

Temperature plays an important role here, too. Keep the room comfortable and cool with a ceiling or floor fan, and if that doesn’t do it, try wearing pajamas made from breathable fabrics like cotton, chambray, or rayon. And don’t forget the bedding! Sheets and blankets made of breathable fabrics can help you regulate temperature, as well.

Get Diet and Exercise on Track

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(TeroVesalainen)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(TeroVesalainen)

There are definitely types of food you should avoid right before bed— like sugar and caffeine — but how you eat all day can also affect how you sleep at night. Prepare wholesome meals balanced with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you’re drowsy, drink green tea instead of coffee or sodas to get a powerful boost of antioxidants. And diet is only one part of the equation — shoot for at least 30 minutes moderate exercise a day. This will help you sleep longer and more deeply because your body needs to recover. Plus, exercise is also a positive coping strategy for the stress and anxiety that often keeps seniors awake at night.

If you find yourself counting sheep instead of getting sleep, you’re not alone. More than 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia. For some, the mind refuses to slow down, and we tend to ruminate on things we didn’t accomplish or conflicts we’ve endured. For others, the body is the culprit, with sleep disorders or chronic pain keeping us up. However, for seniors, it’s often a combination of both. It’s easy to see how making the effort to improve your sleep can also improve your overall well-being.

 

Contributed by Lydia Chan. Lydia is the co-creator of Alzheimerscaregiver.net, a website that aims to provide tips and resources to help caregivers. Her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Lydia found herself struggling to balance the responsibilities of caregiving and her own life. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences with caregivers and seniors. In her spare time, Lydia finds joy in writing articles about a range of caregiving topics.