While insomnia is not a normal part of growing older, it is among the most common sleep disorders in seniors. According to a study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, up to 48% of older adults have insomnia symptoms.
One explanation for the greater occurrence of insomnia in the elderly is that as we age, our sleep patterns change. Naturally, our internal clocks tell us when to wake up and when to go to bed when we are tired. For seniors, their internal clock seems to advance, leading them to feel tired earlier and wake up earlier in the morning.
If your loved one takes frequent naps during the day, they might be able to fall asleep come nighttime, creating poor sleep routines.
Seniors need the same amount of sleep as other adults, but studies suggest older adults tend to sleep lighter and for shorter spans. Spending less time in deep sleep affects how rested the elderly will feel when they wake up, regardless of how many cumulative hours they slept.
Causes of Insomnia in the Elderly
There are many different causes of insomnia among the elderly, with normal changes in sleep patterns being one of them. These are some of the other common causes of insomnia in seniors:
- Medications such as antidepressants and diuretics
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome
- Aches and pains throughout the body
- Neurologic diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease
- Lifestyle habits like napping or lack of physical activity
- Cardiovascular disease
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Chronic stress
- Pulmonary disease
Preventing Insomnia in Seniors
If you are a caregiver for a loved one with sleep issues, there are some ways you can help improve their sleep.
First, you should speak to their doctors if your loved one faces sleep problems. Because insomnia can be a symptom of a serious health condition or side-effect of medication, these need to be ruled out early on.
It is also important to speak to your senior loved one about lifestyle changes they can make to promote better sleeping habits.
Here are some ideas for how you can help prevent insomnia in your elderly loved ones:
- Help them establish a regular sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed at consistent times each day.
- Have them do some physical activity during the day, but not close to bedtime.
- Ensure your aging parent or loved one is sleeping in a dark, cool room at night
- Prevent them from consuming caffeine or alcohol at least three hours before bedtime
- Do not feed them heavy or spicy foods close to bedtime
Treating Insomnia in Elderly Adults
If you are a caregiver for a parent or a loved one who is already experiencing insomnia, treatment usually begins by looking at what is causing the sleep disruptions. It may be as simple as changing sleep habits with the above-mentioned tips.
If the cause of insomnia is related to medications or other medical conditions, treating insomnia in your elderly loved one may require physician intervention.
For example, acute and chronic medical illnesses may cause sleep disruptions, especially if pain and discomfort make falling asleep more difficult. In other instances, neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease are known to deteriorate the wake-sleep cycle.
Treatment for insomnia in your senior loved one will be highly dependent upon their specific symptoms and likely causes, based upon a patient evaluation. Some may benefit from sleep-promoting medications on a short-term basis, but that will be up to the discretion of your loved one’s physician. Always consult a doctor before giving your elderly loved one over-the-counter sleep pills.
Senior Health Care Solutions Can Help Seniors with Insomnia
If your elderly loved one’s insomnia results from a medical condition, we may be able to help. Our highly skilled and compassionate medical professionals can help your loved one manage various insomnia-causing medical issues, including digestive diseases and neurological and memory conditions. We also offer physical therapy services to help seniors regain strength after injury, surgery, and other health events.
Contact Senior Health Care Solutions at any of our four Pennsylvania locations to learn more about how we can help your loved one live more comfortably. .
You can also reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or (570) 969-2188 for more information.