Elusiveness of Sleep: Help for Seniors

By: Jody Smith

There is some disagreement as to whether or not seniors need as much sleep per night as younger people do. What is agreed upon is that many seniors are not getting the amount of sleep that they need, and the sleep they do get is broken up and less refreshing than that of younger people.

Some of this deficit in the sleep department may be attributable in part to other factors such as poor overall health, depression, pain, medication issues, unhealthy diet, and/or being too inactive.

Some seniors may have trouble getting to sleep. Others may have trouble staying asleep during the night. Still others may be waking up too early and can't get back to sleep. A combination of any or all of these issues is enough to put an older person off about the idea of ever going to bed at all.

Lack of sleep can also set you up for other health problems. Your body uses sleep time to repair and restore itself so lack of sleep limits repair and restoration. This affects your body's healing capacity and energy levels. Your ability to think, remember, and concentrate can decrease.

This inability to achieve restful sleep is a common problem affecting seniors, however, do not despair or accept it as an inevitable part of aging. Each individual’s situation is unique but there are many possible solutions that can help alleviate or eliminate the problem.

Eating several small healthy meals throughout the day and avoiding stimulants like caffeine can help sleep return. Because alcohol can intensify sleep medication's side effects, it is not recommended.

For some seniors, avoiding a nap in the afternoon will make nighttime sleep possible once again. Some seniors will sleep better if they become more active during the day with things they enjoy.

Medications should be reviewed by your health care provider to be sure none of them are sabotaging your sleep.

Sleeping pills for some seniors can actually cause more problems than they resolve. Medications for sleep should be used at the lowest dose possible. Non-benzodiazepines may be less likely to cause dependency than benzodiazepines, but taking any medications for sleep for an indefinite length of time is not advisable.

Some seniors have found that they can feel asleep more easily by using the hormone melatonin or the herb valerian.

Depression and worry can also contribute to insomnia. Wherever possible, be honest and realistic about the things that are keeping you awake. Talking to someone and seeking help can be a step in the right direction.

Sources:

Sleep disorders in the elderly

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000064.htm

Sleep and Aging: The Facts about Seniors and Sleep

http://seniorliving.about.com/od/sleep/a/sleep_and_aging.htm

Respite Care Programs Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits for Seniors

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Respite+Care+Programs+Encourage+Healthy+Sleep+Habits+for+Seniors-a01074158238

Insomnia

http://adam.about.net/reports/000027_7.htm

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