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Family Caregiving for Seniors - SageCorner Blog

Elderly Sleep Deprivation

by Deah on Thursday, April 11, 2019 8:10 AM

Sleep is a varied issue for many older adults. I remember my mother-in-law had trouble falling asleep. She could get a decent night sleep once she got to sleep. Even getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night would make it hard for her to get back to sleep. My dad does not seem to be able to get his nights and days straight. He’s up all night and asleep most of the day. Then there is mother, who goes to bed fairly early, goes to sleep right away and is able to sleep well into the next morning.

In researching how to help dad not sleep so much during the day, I found some interesting information to share. The first being a reminder of just how critical sleep is for all of us. Sleep plays an important role in maintaining good physical, mental, and emotional health and lowers our risk for serious health problems. With a healthy sleep pattern our bodies have time to heal, repair and rejuvenate.  Sleep can help us to stay at a healthy weight, reduce stress, improve mood, help us to think more clearly, and do better at work and school. In fact, some say that sleep is as important to our bodies as eating healthy and exercising.


A few years ago TheNational Sleep Foundation came out with new recommendations for appropriate sleep durations. The recommendations for older adults is a sleep range of 7-8 hours. Science Direct states that for many adults, changes in sleep occur with aging and that an estimated 15 million older adults, (50% of older Americans) experience some sleep problems. The research they quote has shown that it is not the need for sleep that decreases with age, but rather the ability to sleep. Circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) disturbances, sleep disorders such as sleep disordered breathing and periodic movements in sleep, medical illness, medication use, and impaired cognitive functioning all contribute to poor sleep and decreased daytime alertness. With careful assessment, many of these problems can be addressed and treated, and sometimes cured.


Not everyone experiences sleep disturbances as they age but it is a problem for many. You may wake early, become tired earlier than usual, and not be able to get into a deep sleep. These disturbances to sleep can cause one to suffer from depression, cognitive impairment, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and falling, weight problems, diabetes, excessive daytime sleepiness, and many other health related problems.


A sleep disorders is a significant concern for the geriatric population. It is just as important to our health to get the proper amount of sleep at an elderly age as it is when we were younger. A good night’s sleep improves concentration and memory, allows the body to repair any cell damage, increases mortality,  refreshes the immune system, as well as helps to prevent disease.

You may know that eating certain foods such as caffeine and spicy foods and consuming large portions before going to bed may inhibit sleep, but did you know that there are some foods and beverages that can actually help get you sleep?


Foods that contain these four main vitamins and minerals can aid in promoting sleep: tryptophan, magnesium, calcium, and B6. These substances help the body produce melatonin which is the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm. The Alaska Sleep Clinic has a great list of the foods that are naturally packed with these vitamins and minerals and promote sleep.              


Some other tips to help you sleep:

  • If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and try reading or listening to music. When you feel sleepy get back into bed and try again.
  • ·         Avoid drinking alcohol to get to sleep. While it may make you sleepy it can make you wake up later in the night. 
  • ·         Try to stay away from daytime napping.
  • ·         Moderately exercise in the afternoon.
  • ·         Try to go to bed at the same time each night.
  • ·         Use the bed only for sleep or sexual activity. No TV.
  • ·         Avoid tobacco products before bedtime.
  • ·         Keep the room dark.

If you sleep troubles persist you might want to consult with your physician who may even refer you to a sleep center in order to get to the root of your sleep issues.

Blogs Parent Separator Deah Bowes

Tips and ideas to help care for a senior loved one at home.


Lori Paterno, M.Ed. Has a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling From Penn State University.  She has over 20 years professional experience in Human Services, Counseling, and Education.

Lori Paterno, M.Ed. Has a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling From Penn State University.  She has over 20 years professional experience in Human Services, Counseling, and Education. 
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