Did you know that senior sleep problems and insomnia affect more than half of the elderly in the United States? The American Sleep Association found that insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder, while the National Poll on Health Aging discovered that 1 out of 3 adults between the ages of 65 and 80 regularly take something to help them sleep. Seniors and caregivers often conclude that poor sleep is a natural part of aging — but it doesn’t have to be.
Understanding the Types of Senior Sleep Problems
Having sleep problems — such as light sleep, insomnia, frequent waking, and daytime fatigue — can affect mood, cognitive ability, and physical well-being. Helping seniors get a restful night’s sleep begins with understanding the causes and types of senior sleep problems. It is important to consult a doctor or medical professional, but having a general overview of sleep problems and their contributing factors is good information to have on hand, especially for home caregivers who have senior clients.
One of the primary factors of senior sleep problems is poor health or illness, not a sleep disorder itself. Conditions like heart and lung disease, asthma, and acid reflux affect the amount and quality of sleep in seniors. Oftentimes, simply being in pain from an illness will lead to restless sleep. Chronic health conditions, such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and Parkinson’s can make it difficult for seniors to find a comfortable position when trying to sleep and the pain and unpleasant sensations from these disorders can keep them awake at night, even when they are tired and want to sleep. It is best to check with a doctor about options for treating these conditions and ways to reduce the symptoms in order to improve the quality of sleep.
Side Effects of Medications
Compounding the issues with health conditions are side effects of medications. Common side effects of prescription medication include restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Restless leg syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in the legs, such as a tingling feeling, and results in an uncontrollable urge to move them. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can be made worse with certain medications, such as muscles relaxants. Some medications, like antihistamines, can even lead to sleep apnea as a side effect. Home caregivers should take note if they notice that seniors in their care are having problems with insomnia and check to see if side effects from medications are part of the problem. Again, it is always best to consult with a medical professional and not make a diagnosis on your own.
Some senior sleep problems are a result of the development of sleep disorders, which they may or may not have had prior to their senior years. Sleep disorders include snoring, sleep apnea, night terrors, daytime fatigue, sleepwalking, narcolepsy, and others. The causes for these sleep disorders can be acute or chronic, can stem from a single cause or multiple causes, and can be simple or complex. Sleep disorders are health conditions and can be treated in a variety of ways, including natural remedies and prescription medication.
Stress and Anxiety
The cause of insomnia more often than not stems from stress and anxiety. Other sleep problems can arise from stress and anxiety as well, such as restless leg syndrome, daytime fatigue, and frequent waking, which inhibits quality REM sleep — a phase of sleep that is important because it stimulates the brain regions used in learning. Home caregivers can help by paying attention to what causes stress and anxiety for the seniors in their care. Finding ways to reduce the stress and anxiety may lead to better quality sleep for seniors.
When people reach their senior years, advanced sleep phase syndrome often sets in. Seniors and people who have this disorder experience melatonin levels and a core body temperature that cycle earlier than people without the disorder. The solution is for seniors to go to sleep earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. However, sometimes people resist this change in their sleep schedules, resulting in fewer hours of sleep and an inability to sleep in. If home caregivers notice that there are seniors in their care who are staying up late and not getting enough sleep, they can explain the importance of an early bedtime and also recommend consulting a doctor.
The Importance of Home Care Services
In addition to the benefit of being able to age in the comfort of one’s own home, home care services also provide personalized care. Home caregivers are often the eyes and ears of their clients, catching health issues and warning signs that may otherwise go unnoticed. This includes sleep problems and insomnia. The caregivers at Alegre Home Care help design personal care plans to best suit the needs of each individual. If you are looking for home care services or are interested in becoming a home caregiver, please reach out to Alegre Home Care at one of our Northern California locations. Home care services help provide a peace of mind, so you can rest easy knowing you or your loved ones are in good hands.