The Importance of Sleep in the Elderly

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When it comes to the elderly, sleep is an important factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Most healthy older adults aged 65 or older need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to feel rested and alert. When these hours are not met, it’s usually a result of lifestyle changes including being less active, environmental adjustments, or experiencing emotional trauma like the loss of a loved one. As we age, sleep patterns may change resulting in common sleep problems. Examples include the following:

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Trouble Falling Asleep

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Sleeping Fewer Hours

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Frequently Waking Up

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Getting a Lesser Quality of Sleep

Sleep Disorders in the Elderly

Sleep disorders, unlike sleep problems, are diagnosable by a doctor. When a senior is experiencing one of these disorders it can lead to health concerns like increased risk for falling and daytime fatigue. Examples of sleep disorders are described below:

 

  • Insomnia: difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or restless sleep
  • Sleep apnea: brief interruptions in breathing during sleep
  • Restless leg syndrome: the overwhelming need to move your legs during sleep
  • Periodic limb movement disorder: involuntary movement of the limbs during sleep
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders: a disrupted sleep-wake cycle
  • REM behavior disorder: the vivid acting out of dreams during sleep

Sleep Disorders are Diagnosable and Treatable

If your loved one is struggling with a sleep problem or disorder, talking to their doctor is the first step to ensuring a better night’s rest. Your doctor may ask them to keep a sleep diary to monitor their sleep and wake cycles, or participate in a sleep study to diagnose certain disorders like sleep apnea. If you are looking for something that does not affect your senior’s pharmaceutical routine, sleep therapy is a great treatment plan. In these sessions, the provider will curate healthy sleeping habits by going over sleep education, stimulus control, and time-in-bed restrictions. For more ways to feel rested without using sleeping aids, check out the World Sleep Society’s action plan below:

The World Sleep Society Steps For Healthy Sleep1

Fix a bedtime and an awakening timeDo not exceed 45 minutes of daytime naps

Do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime naps

Avoid excessive alcohol 4 hours before bedtime

Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime

Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime

Exercise regularly, but not right before bed

Use comfortable bedding

Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping

Block out all distracting noise and as much light as possible

Medical Conditions and Sleep

Medical conditions also play a role in sleeping habits that change with age. A study on sleep problems found in the National Library of Medicine concluded that those who had trouble sleeping were more likely to have existing conditions and be less physically active. These conditions include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Chronic pain like arthritis pain
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Neurological conditions
  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Lung or respiratory conditions
  • Poor bladder control

How We Can Help

Psych360 provides comprehensive mental health solutions for long-term care communities. We deliver a hybrid of both on-site and telehealth psychiatric and psychological services for your residents. Connect with us at psych360.org or give us a call at (330) 536-3746 for more information.

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