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    Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy

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    Sleep and Older Adults continued...

    Alcohol can make your senior drowsy at first, but it hurts healthy sleep in the long run by disturbing the sleep cycle, making sleep less restful, and making him more likely to wake up during the night.

    As with practically everything, "A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures."
    -Irish proverb

    Maintain a sleep diary to note sleep patterns. The doctor will find this information useful if you need to consult with her, and you might discover patterns you weren't aware of: Is sleeping a problem the night before the family comes to visit? Is this about anxiety or excitement? Visit the National Sleep Foundation for more information.

    If there are serious issues that require discussion, don't bring these up right before bedtime. Avoid arguments.

    Some people swear by a teaspoon of honey in a cup of hot water before bedtime. Others go for warm milk with a little cinnamon. But if liquids are a problem before bed, find a different solution. A foot bath or massage right before bed can help.

    Get dark-lined (blackout) shades for people who don't sleep well, and block out disturbing noise with a fan or a white noise machine. Some models have a choice of sounds that mimic ocean waves, the patter of raindrops, and other soothing sounds.

    Aromatherapy using lavender candles and potpourri can be very relaxing. Try a couple drops of lavender oil in a bath or on the corner of your parent's pillow. You can even buy soft microwavable products that warm up potpourri inside.

    Change the linens often. Everyone enjoys fresh sheets. You can even buy lavender water to put in the wash. It's sold in a lot of home stores and catalogs these days.

    Unpleasant odors can interfere with sleep. Use potpourri and make sure the air in the room has a chance to circulate. When Mom's out of the room for a while, open the windows or light a scented candle.

    Create a sleep ritual before bedtime and follow this every evening. If you live far away, you can still call at bedtime to wish your parents sweet dreams.

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