Follow Us:

Sleep Disorders Among Seniors: It's More Common Than You Think!

Meghana Giridhar - February 13, 2014 03:16 PM

Sleep deprivation or insomnia is a common problem among seniors. According to National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 44% of older persons experience one or more of the nighttime symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights per week or more. It’s unwise to dismiss it as a temporary part of normal aging. Being sleep deprived can hurt efficiency, mood, alertness, and decision making. It’s a serious problem and the underlying causes might be surprising.

Here are some prominent factors causing snooze troubles:

•    Health issues: Diabetes, mellitus, renal failure, respiratory diseases such as asthma, immune disorders and even diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are all associated with sleep problems.

•    Anxiety: Causes could be psychological or emotional affecting the body’s capacity to relax.

•    Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Snoring is the primary cause of sleep disruption for approximately 90 million American adults. Loud snoring is a sign of sleep apnea where breathing becomes shallow causing you to wake up. Many seniors report frequent sleep disruptions because of this issue.

•    Restless Leg Syndrome: This is a disorder characterized by an uncontrollable impulse to move the limbs. It gets worse at night and increases with age.  

•    Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): This condition in which the stomach contents leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus causing heartburn is another common cause of sleep problems.

•    Faulty Sleep Patterns: As we age, the body is structured such that it is better to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. However, many seniors tend to mimic the sleep patterns of younger people i.e sleep and wake up late, disrupting their internal body clock. Also, sleep patterns of seniors are such that older people spend more time in light sleep than deep sleep which makes them wake up several times a night.

•    Some additional factors include medications, frequent urination and arthritis pain.

Tips for Getting More Sleep:

•    Routine, Routine, Routine: The body needs to follow a consistent pattern. So set the alarm clock, exercise and eat meals at the same time every day.

•    Warm It Up: The sun is your friend. Spend a significant amount of time outdoors to help get the sleep/wake cycle on track.

•    Keep it Mellow: Avoid heavy meals, caffeine for at least 3 or 4 hours before bed and alcohol in the evenings. Try a soothing activity at bedtime such as reading or listening to music.

•    Nap it Out: An afternoon nap of not more than 20 minutes will give the needed burst of energy for the rest of the day.

•    Check Please: Set up a doctor’s appointment as soon as there is any change in sleep patterns. Some medications cause sleep problems. Doctors can make adjustments in dosage or prescribe alternate solutions.

For serious sleep deprivation, additional measures may be used by doctors, some of which include:
•    Hypnotics to induce and maintain sleep
•    Antidepressants, if the cause of the sleep problem is depression
•    Anti-anxiety drugs, if anxiety is related to insomnia

Good sleep is the cornerstone of health. So don’t let sleep deprivation paralyze you anymore! Act now and put the bounce back in your step!


Click here to read Meghana Giridhar's blog, "Alzheimer's Affects African-Americans Nearly Twice as Much as Caucasians".

Meghana Giridhar serves as Content Coordinator and is part of eCareDiary's founding team.  In her role, she oversees and edits content across all of eCareDiary's media platforms

If you found this article useful, please click the “Share This” icon below to make it available to your family and friends.

Your Answers and Comments

Post your answer or comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.

Previous Articles

More Previous Articles