Insomnia & Old Age

Contrary to popular belief, insomnia and sleep issues are not intrinsically linked to aging. Instead, health issues and medical complications are the likely culprit for why so many of our senior citizens have trouble getting a good night’s rest.

Symptoms of sleeplessness, or insomnia, include difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up frequently throughout the night and being unable to fall back asleep, waking up very early in the morning, and a constant sense of fatigue.

Just like other adults, seniors need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night in order to feel fully refreshed and recuperated in the morning, however many American seniors have difficulties getting even just a few hours of sleep. Whatever your age, sleep is a crucial component of both mental and physical well-being.

A lack of sleep can cause attention and memory problems in older family members, and has also been linked to depression. As we age, a good night’s sleep is especially important because it improves concentration and memory formation, allows your body to repair any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshes your immune system which helps to prevent disease.

Factors that can contribute to poor sleep in old age include:

One of the main concerns with senior health is the frequency of sleep issues. Finding the right mattress which offers support and the proper amount of firmness can improve sleep and decrease the frequency of sleeplessness, a common problem amongst the elderly.

1. Poor Sleep Habits: the most common cause of insomnia amongst the elderly is poor sleep habits, including irregular sleep hours (going to bed and waking up at inconsistent times), frequent daytime napping, alcohol consumption before bed, high caffeine intake before bed.

2. Pain/Medical Conditions: severe pain can keep you from sleeping well; certain health conditions can interfere with sleep – incontinence, heartburn, asthma, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis.

3. Medication: some medications stimulate us, leading to an inability to sleep; others cause drowsiness during the day which will cause us to stay up at night; be sure to take note of the possible side effects of your medication and discuss with your doctor any alternatives.

4. Lack of exercise: exercise is crucial to getting a good night of sleep, find out more about the importance of exercise and aging at Senior Monitoring.

5. Psychological Conditions: mental or emotional stresses and disorders – from depression to a recent death – can cause serious disturbances to sleep which may last for long periods of time.

6. Sleep Disorders: conditions such as sleep apnea occur more frequently in old age and can interrupt sleep patterns.

The first step to alleviating sleep issues is to identify the causes of your sleeplessness. Whether you suffer from sleep apnea, have an anxiety disorder, or simply need to get more exercise, all of the above factors can be remedied or eradicated. Consult your doctors to create a plan and find solutions that will best benefit you and your condition.

Many of these adjustments are cheap, quick and easy to implement and can drastically improve the quality of life of a senior citizen. For the millions of seniors who choose to age at home, safety is a top priority and must not be overlooked by families and caregivers. The key to ensuring a happy and safe home life for some elderly family members is to eliminate potential hazards and set up as many safety nets as possible. Stay tuned for future articles on safety tips for your kitchen, living room and more.