Scientific studies back up the notion that exercise promotes deep and restful sleep in older adults, but the beneficial effects may depend on both the type and intensity of the physical activity as well as the time of the day it’s performed.
In a 2003 study published in the journal Sleep, female participants aged 50 to 75 who engaged in moderate-intensity exercise in the evening had more trouble falling asleep than morning exercisers. Participants who performed low-intensity stretches before bedtime had the best results. The stretchers not only fell asleep quickly but slept for longer periods of time as well.
Here are four simple stretching exercises from Oklahoma senior home care experts that your elderly relative can perform before going to bed to improve sleep:
1. Calf and Hamstring Stretches
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy found that stretching the leg muscles before bedtime significantly reduced the frequency of nocturnal leg cramps in adults 55 years and older. Using a chair for support or with the assistance of his or her live-in or part-time caregiver, seniors can safely stretch their legs before climbing into bed.
2. Reach for the Stars
Most older adults find overhead stretches easy to perform, and reaching upwards offers a simple way to loosen the muscles in the shoulders, upper back, and back of the neck. Reaching from side to side is beneficial, too. It helps strengthen the core and improve flexibility in the hips.
3. The Yawning Stretch
A growing body of research suggests that yawning and the arm gestures associated with yawning have a cooling effect on the brain. It achieves this effect by forcing warmer blood away from the skull to increase cerebral blood flow to the brain, making the stretch good for circulation.
4. Stretching Exercises in Bed
Once in bed, seniors can safely perform a few simple exercises designed to increase flexibility in their hips and backs. One example is to simply hug the knees as close to the chest as possible. It’s a great way to stretch the entire spine and relax muscles before drifting off to sleep.
Some seniors stop exercising out of fear of falling or injuring themselves and not being able to call for help. To help get your loved one back on track, consider an hourly caregiver who can offer assistance during physical activity and provide a watchful eye. At Home Care Assistance, our caregivers utilize the Balanced Care Method, which, in addition to physical activity, promotes a healthy diet, meaningful social relationships, and feelings of purpose. Give a friendly Care Manager a call today at 405-285-4191 to learn more about our care services or to schedule a complimentary in-home consultation.