A senior man sleeping in an assisted living home.

Everything You Need to Know About Insomnia in Seniors

0 Comment Category: Senior Health

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders in older adults. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, around 50% of seniors experience symptoms of insomnia and restless nights. It can be trouble falling asleep or waking up several times during the night; some seniors also experience fatigue, irritability, lack of energy, and loss of concentration due to the sleep disorder.

Seniors with chronic insomnia are also at a higher risk of accidents and other physical and mental health complications like diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. That is why it is crucial to understand the causes of insomnia in older adults and help them improve sleep to stay healthy. Interestingly, changing a few daily habits can help seniors to enjoy better sleep. Below is a quick look at how you can help your elderly loved one to fight the signs of insomnia and get a good night’s sleep.

Decoding the Changing Patterns in Sleep

Changes in sleep patterns are common with aging. The internal clock in older adults becomes more advanced, making them get tired early in the evening and wake up early in the morning. This can gradually make your senior parent or grandparent take more naps during the daytime. However, that can eventually make it more difficult for them to fall asleep at night.

As per the National Sleep Foundation, older adults need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to feel restored. So if you see your senior loved one developing a bad sleep routine, you need to help them stay engaged during the daytime so that they can sleep well at night. This is why assisted living communities keep their residents engaged with different activities as per their other health conditions. They also motivate seniors to take part in daily physical and mental workout sessions, which can lift their mood and improve sleep.

Causes of Insomnia in Older Adults

There can be many reasons for insomnia in seniors, such as the aforementioned change in sleep patterns, medications such as antidepressants, nasal decongestants, and those used to treat high blood pressure, or underlying sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea. Sometimes, other health conditions, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, chronic pain, or respiratory diseases, can also lead to insomnia.

Some older adults also experience severe forms of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, which can gradually lead to improper sleep and cause insomnia. Apart from that, lifestyle habits like excessive caffeine intake, alcohol consumption before bed, smoking before bed, and lack of physical activity can also lead to insomnia. Besides, stress in seniors, especially stress that lasts for a longer time, is also a common triggering factor of sleep disorders.

Improving Sleep in Seniors

If your elderly loved one experiences restless nights too often and has chronic sleep problems, then you should consult with a doctor as soon as possible to take the right measures to deal with the sleep disorder. If a specific medicine is causing their insomnia, then the primary health care provider can help to address it first. Alongside that, you should also talk to your senior parent or grandparent to help them learn ways to promote healthy sleeping habits.

Below are a few things that can help to improve sleep in older adults and prevent the complications caused due to insomnia.

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule every day
  • Participate in physical activities during the daytime
  • Sleep in a dark and quiet room
  • Maintain optimal temperature in the room at night
  • Practice meditation or breathing exercises before bedtime
  • Listen to calming music to counter troubles in falling asleep
  • Do not consume alcohol or caffeine 3 hours before bedtime
  • Avoid eating heavy meals for dinner or spicy food at night
  • Quit smoking
  • Stop taking a nap during the daytime
  • Keep away from drinking excessive amounts of liquid before bedtime
  • Use over-the-counter sleep aids if necessary after consulting with the doctor
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