Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your overall health and your mood at any age. However, it can be particularly important for your elderly relative.
The older we get, the more common sleep problems are. While the amount of sleep recommended for an older adult is the same – seven to nine hours each night – sleep can often be less deep and choppier than for those who are younger.
Common problems include:
Having trouble falling asleep
Waking up frequently in the night or early morning
Getting less quality sleep
Primary sleep disorders can be:
Insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or restless sleep
Sleep apnea, or brief interruptions in breathing during sleep often marked by heavy snoring
Restless leg syndrome, or the overwhelming need to move your legs during sleep
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders, or a disrupted sleep-wake cycle
Conditions like depression, anxiety, and dementia can increase the risk for sleep disorders, especially insomnia. Certain existing health conditions, including cognitive, neurological, gastrointestinal, respiratory and urologic issues, as well as various medications (for high blood pressure, COPD, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiac disease, GI problems) can also affect a good night’s sleep.
If you’re having a sleeping problem, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP. If he or she suspects a sleep disorder, a sleep study might be recommended. During such a study, sensors will monitor your body movement, breathing, snoring, heart rate, and brain activity.
Typically, for older adults, non-pharmaceutical treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy constitute the first wave of treatment, since many are already taking multiple medications.
This might include having you learn to develop good sleeping habits by:
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
Using the bed only for sleep and not for other activities like work or watching TV
Doing quiet activities, like reading, before bed
Avoiding bright lights before bed
Limiting liquid before bed and avoiding caffeine and alcohol
Keeping a soothing and comfortable bedroom environment
Eating three to four hours before bedtime
Exercising regularly, but not right before bedtime
Taking a warm bath to relax
Other treatments may include the use of melatonin, a synthetic hormone that induces sleep faster and restores the sleep-wake cycle. On a short term basis, sleeping medications that may help ease the symptoms of the sleep disorder may also be recommended. This, however, needs to be monitored closely, as sleeping pills can increase the risk of falls and can become habit forming. Most importantly, if you think your elderly relative has a sleep problem, don’t wait until the problem starts to affect their health. Get help.
If you think you or your loved one can benefit from arranging live-in care, please contact us today on 0800 980 3958 or email firstname.lastname@example.org