Retirement is supposedly the greatest time of life when people stop working and fill their time with activities they enjoy doing. However, for many retirees health issues become a serious obstacle to enjoying life in these latter years. To be more specific, retirement together with certain health conditions significantly increase the risk of developing a sleep disorder, especially insomnia.
But, how does retirement affect sleep? Continue reading this article and you will soon find out why retirees spend so many sleepless nights.
Retirement: The Beginning of a New Lifestyle as a Cause of Insomnia
In general, people are joyfully waiting for retirement to come as a successful end of their working life. However, this period brings drastic changes to their lifestyles and most retirees aren’t fully prepared for embracing them.
As a matter of fact, people are used to following a strict schedule during the working years. Speaking precisely, they are woken up by an alarm clock at a consistent wake time, prepare for work, commute, perform their job tasks, have lunch, get back home, do housework, relax, and go to bed at a consistent bedtime.
That said, they truly follow a consistent schedule during weekdays which helps in reinforcing the circadian rhythm and sleep patterns, thus preventing insomnia. So, as soon as retirement arrives, people don’t have to wake up early or perform any tasks at a specific time. As a result, sleep schedule varies with most retirees sleeping in during the morning and having troubles falling asleep at night.
In addition, not only do they experience difficulties falling asleep, but also have lower sleep quality as falling asleep harder may result in frequent nighttime awakenings or even too early morning awakenings. Hence, they may end up sleeping less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age which is often 7 to 8 hours per night for people older than 65.
Among other things, the changes introduce into retirees’ everyday life may also harm sleep. Namely, once people retire are less physically and socially active and such a restricted lifestyle could also diminish sleep quality. Then, frequent napping, depression, anxiety, or increased use of medications or alcohol are also some of the most common causes of sleep issues in retirees.
Sleep Conditions that Impair Sleep in Retirement
On the other hand, like the many lifestyle changes that lead to insomnia, certain health conditions could contribute to sleep impairment too. One frequent condition in elderly people is obstructive sleep apnea which may come with aging and is characterized by breathing interruptions during the night. If untreated, this sleep disorder can even worsen diabetes or hypertension and increase the risk of dementia, stroke, or heart attack.
Other sleep disorders that may develop late in life include restless legs syndrome and leg cramps which make falling asleep quite difficult, REM behavior disorder which results in dream enactment behaviors, advanced sleep-wake phase disorder that leads to falling asleep too early at night and waking up too early in the morning.
Therefore, if you start experiencing difficulties with sleep after retirement, ensure you address the issue right away by:
- Get about 20 minutes of sunlight after awakening
- Try to be as active as possible during daytime
- Avoid or at least limit napping to one a day
- Follow consistent wake and bedtimes every day.