As we age, our sleeping patterns change and these changes can make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. Good sleeping has been shown to improve blood sugar levels and improve type 2 diabetes, among other general health boosts.
Insomnia in seniors is very common. In fact, the National Institute of Health reports that 50% of adults 60 years of age or older are affected by insomnia. This type of sleep deprivation can last for days, months or years and is often debilitating. For our bodies to rejuvenate, the quality and quantity of sleep is important. Seniors sleep lighter and for shorter spans, which is part of the aging process, but sometimes trouble sleeping can be the sign for other health issues.
What Does a Sleep Disorder Look Like?
- Having difficulty falling asleep every night
- Waking up often during the night
- Inability to distinguish day from night
- Awakening too early
- Too much sleep
Signs of a Sleep Disorder
Trying to locate the reasons you or your loved one is experiencing insomnia may be hard to recognize since sleeplessness occurs at night. Review the following check list to help you identify signs and symptoms:
- Feeling drowsy, tired, or exhausted during the day
- Stumbling more or having more accidents because of tireness
- Having more difficulty concentrating
- Memory seems to be impaired more than usual
- Showing signs of Irritability or depression
- Complains of being up all night
- Taking a longer time to fall asleep
- Rising earlier than usual
Causes of an Elderly Sleep Disorder
Your health care provider can help you determine the cause of any sleeping issues through a physical exam and reviewing your history.
Contributing factors to a sleep disorder in older adults may be:
- Frequent urination
- Stimulants- such as caffeine or nicotine
- Pain- caused by such disease as arthritis
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Medications, herbs, or supplements
- Medical Illnesses and Health Conditions
- Changes to your natural sleep habits
- Poor sleep environment- too much light or noise
Effects and Complications of Elderly Sleeping Problems
A lack of sleep in the short term can cause mental deficits and diminish physical abilities as well. Since our brain stores information when we sleep. Sleep deprivation will also affect what we remember. Not sleeping well for an extended period can have more serious effects on your health. Recent studies have proven that chronic sleep deprivation is linked to obesity because hormones, which control hunger and appetite, are affected by sleep. Heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression are other issues that a lack of sleep will have an affect on. And, many chronic diseases can be made worse by sleep deprivation.
Solutions, Tips and Treatments
Just like air, water, and food - a good restful sleep is essential to restore our body’s health and well being. To properly treat insomnia we must first learn the causes and if self management is not working and you feel the need for medication or supplements to help you sleep, talk to you doctor first as they can interact with other medications you may be taking. If at all possible you should avoid using sleeping pills because they can also lead to dependency.
- Exercise for Good Sleep - Regular exercise is so good for us and it is even important in overcoming sleep problems. Moderate exercise releases body chemicals that promote a more restful sleep and has a great impact on improving sleep for adults.
- Sleep Diary - Keeping a sleep diary can be helpful if trying to pin down the reason for insomnia by recording the time you fall asleep, sleep disturbances, and any pain or feelings you may have when your sleep is interrupted. Your doctor may have sleep diary forms available.
- Insomnia Method - Instead of just lying there unable to sleep, wait 20 minutes. If you still can’t fall asleep, get up and do something quiet like a crossword puzzle or read. Don’t watch tv or do anything stimulating. A quiet activity may make you drowsy enough to try again after only a few minutes.
- Seek Medical Attention - Seeking medical attention for chronic pain and medical conditions may help to improve sleep. Treatment for frequent urination and depression will also improve sleep habits.
Other ideas to promote a good night’s sleep may include:
- A warm glass of milk or “sleepy” tea before bedtime
- Sleeping in a quiet, dark, and comfortable place
- Avoiding activities in bed such as watching TV or talking on phone
- Avoiding caffeine or other stimulants – 3-6 hours before bedtime
- Maintaining regular schedule –going to bed and rising at the same time daily
- Keeping naps limited to a 15 to 45 minute timeframe
- Avoiding big meals or spicy foods before bedtime
- Exercising daily- early in the day is preferable
- Avoiding Alcohol
- Minimizing beverage intake before sleep
- Establishing a bedtime ritual - warm bath, calming music
- Check out "Best Remedies for Insomnia" from Reader's Digest
Hope you have a good night!