Solving Sleeping Problems for Elderly Adults
A lot of people think that our need for sleep declines with age. Many people consider that we need less than 8 hours, but this is not true. In fact, elderly adults require 7 – 9 hours per night, just like younger adults.
Our circadian rhythm, which coordinates our bodily functions, including sleep, can change as we age. A common occurrence is that elderly people find themselves becoming more sleepy in the early evening, and waking much earlier in the mornings.
Causes of sleeping problems
After 65 years of age, the circadian rhythm may not function as well as it did. This is partly to do with the fact that elderly people don’t produce as much melatonin as they did when they were younger. Melatonin is the chemical that helps us to sleep. There are other factors that can contribute to poor sleep, too.
Some things to consider if your elderly loved one is having some problems sleeping are lifestyle changes. Certain habits can impact on our sleep, such as:
- Drinking caffeine
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating too late in the evening
These habits have been known to have a negative impact on sleep, particularly the consumption of caffeine, which increases our heart rate, making it difficult for us to relax and fall asleep, at any age. Similarly, alcohol can prevent us from sleeping deeply, and eating too late in the evening gives us a boost of energy.
There are also other factors that can disrupt sleep, which would be worth talking to a doctor about, too.
Discussing sleep issues with your GP
Snoring can sometimes be the result of sleep apnea, which causes frequent and short pauses in breathing while sleeping. It is a serious condition and can also lead to other health problems.
Alzheimer’s Disease affects elderly people in many different ways, and one such way is on sleep. Some elderly individuals living with Alzheimer’s Disease have problems
sleeping even for a short time, while others find themselves sleeping a lot during the day. If your loved one is living with Alzheimer’s, then our blog on coping with a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease might be worth a read!
Discuss any medications with a doctor, as some medications can interfere with sleep. Antidepressants such as SSRIs can impede upon our ability to sleep, as can beta-blockers and certain types of medication for cardiovascular diseases. If an elderly loved one is on any of these types of medications, ask them to discuss them with their doctor and see what is recommended.
No matter what age a person is, disrupted and broken sleep can result in clumsiness, irritability and trouble concentrating and remembering. In the meantime, here a few things that can help improve sleep:
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night.
- Create an environment that encourages relaxation and sleepiness, such as a dark, quiet and cool room.
- Ensure your mattress, pillows and blankets are comfortable.
- Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed, and be sure to avoid nicotine, alcohol and, in particular, caffeine.
- Boost melatonin naturally by using lower-wattage bulbs in all lamps and lights. Melatonin is also boosted when laptops, tablets and smartphone screens are ignored before bed.
- Exercise during the day to ensure physical tiredness.
- Get some Vitamin D by going out in the sunshine: going outside can improve your circadian rhythm.
Comfort Keepers team members can reinforce routines and healthy behaviours, whether as respite providers or daily caregivers. Contact us to learn how we can assist you or your loved ones with in home care services.
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