For many older adults, sleep problems are a surprising feature of aging. Most people expect stiffness, aches and pains, and occasional forgetfulness as inevitable parts of growing older. However, the insomnia often experienced by seniors is less talked about. For a variety of reasons, people’s sleep schedules change over time. One reason for this is the aforementioned aches and pains: when you’re less comfortable physically, it can be much harder to get a good night’s sleep. Similarly, many ailments common to seniors can disrupt sleep. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other disorders can contribute to restless nights. The side effects of many medications can also induce sleeplessness.
In addition to illness and pain, most seniors experience a rewiring of their biological clocks, due to hormonal and other physiological changes that accompany age. Shorter periods of deep sleep, as well as earlier waking and daytime sleepiness, are often part of the package. Psychological factors, such as stress, can also be major contributors to insomnia.
Because of the biological changes and ailments that often accompany aging, many older adults feel the need to nap during the day. Short naps can be beneficial, allowing for a period of rest that leads to higher energy levels and a feeling of rejuvenation. However, napping can also compromise night-time sleep: if someone sleeps more during the day, it’s likely that they’ll have a harder time getting to sleep at night, even if they feel tired. In addition to daytime napping, nocturnal bathroom visits are a major culprit in insomnia for older adults. Waking to go to the bathroom can prove very disruptive to a normal sleep schedule, as many people find it difficult to go back to sleep afterwards. While there’s not much anyone can do about the basic physiological changes responsible for shifting periods of sleepiness and wakefulness, there are measures that older adults can take to lessen insomnia. Limiting napping during the day, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake (particularly later in the day), and avoiding drinking too many liquids in the evening can all be helpful steps to getting a better night’s sleep.
Edison Home Health Care is happy to advise and assist you or any loved one who seek appropriate care for sleeping problems. Give us a call at 888-311-1142, or fill out a contact form and we will respond shortly.