We all want to age gracefully after spending most of our lives working effortlessly. Seniors, however, have their own share of challenges. Statistics reveal that millions of the elderly in the US face sleep problems. Though a change in your sleeping patterns may be a part of aging, other factors can also contribute to the difficulties.
Sleep disorders can affect the quality of your life as you age since they reduce your energy levels, cause fatigue and daytime sleepiness. Some seniors also experience problems focusing, confusion and the lack of productivity at different tasks due to sleep deprivation.
Doctors report sleep disorders in the elderly can cause premature death. We will help you understand your condition by discussing the causes, signs as well as solutions to sleep disorders during this phase of life. Read on!
Different sleep disorders during aging and their causes
Insomnia is a major problem that affects a lot of aged people. You may find yourself taking hours before you can sleep. It can also come from frequent awakening during the night. You may be more sensitive to noises at night than a young person. This can disrupt your sleep. A lot of old people report that they have less sleep compared to when they were younger.
Sleeping during the day can also cause nighttime wakefulness. Aging decreases the duration of REM sleep which is when your body should be in a deep sleep. Others also experience sleep apnea which affects the way they breathe when asleep. The condition comes from obstruction of your airway. Overweight seniors are at higher risk of getting sleep apnea than those with normal weight levels.
Sleep apnea can make you wake up during the night gasping. It can also lead to other conditions such as heart rhythm problems, hypertension, and heart diseases. It also causes excessive snoring in the elderly. You may also experience periodic limb movement disorder (PLMS). This is the repetitive leg kicking while sleeping. This can disrupt your sleep or even disturb your partner in bed.
Most seniors also spend most of the time dealing with pain in different body parts. It can prevent you from sleeping for the long. Other medical conditions such as rapid palpitations caused by heart diseases and neurological conditions can decrease the quality of your sleep. Urinary problems can cause frequent awakenings.
Some seniors also deal with diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, sinus problems, and constipation which disturb sleep. Mental conditions like depression, bipolar, dementia and Alzheimer’s make it hard for you to go through all the stages of sleep.
You may be healthy but have poor lifestyle choices that can cause sleep problems during aging. You become less active when old compared to a young person, but this can prevent you from sleeping well. Grief and sadness causes anxiety and stress which can interfere with your sleep.
Smoking or taking alcohol are also possible causes. A lot of elders take more than five different types of medicines. Some of them such as beta blockers or sedatives can make it difficult to sleep.
How to manage sleep problems while aging
Seek medical care
Though occasional insomnia while aging may seem ordinary, long-term sleep problems call for medical intervention. Visit a doctor for them to conduct physical exams to determine the possible causes. They may evaluate your sleep patterns using different tests such as checking brain waves, eye movements or leg movements.
The doctor can also give you a portable recorder to evaluate sleep disorders from home. After identifying the cause, they can prescribe the right medication to improve your sleep quality. For instance, drug therapy is used to minimize insomnia.
Observe sleep hygiene
Changing your sleep habits and lifestyle can help you combat sleep disorders. For instance, you should try doing some light exercises during the day to prepare your body for long resting hours. Even if you are in pain, trying taking a walk every day around your compound. This can boost both your physical and mental health. You can also lose weight and reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
One of the sleep habits you should adopt is maintaining a sleep schedule. Get a sleep journal and record the problems that may be affecting your sleep. Avoid sleeping during the day. Do not watch TV from your bed. This should only be your resting area.
Avoid taking heavy dinner before bedtime since they slow down your digestion and may cause abdominal discomfort. As part of your routine before bed, freshen up and brush your teeth so that you increase your comfort level. Stay away from smoking or taking sedatives before sleeping.
Prepare your sleep environment
The condition of your bed also determines how you sleep. Get a new organic mattress from Avocado mattress to boost the quality of your sleep. They provide soft mattresses that can prevent you from body pain and other problems at night. Reduce light in your room to avoid any distractions.
Use light bedding if the bedroom feels cold or add a heavy wool blanket if you have severe allergies or sinus problems. Get sleep accessories that can block any external noise for you to avoid waking up in the middle of the night. Bring in an air conditioner to regulate the temperature in your room.
Deal with mental challenges
Are you mourning the loss of loved ones? Excessive thinking can cause stress and anxiety, especially at night. Use some soothing music to calm yourself to sleep. You can also read something interesting before bedtime. Feel free to seek the help of a therapist if mental issues are beyond your control. Do not spend your daytime hours alone. Try to talk to other family members who can help you boost your moods and reduce sadness.
Aging is normal, but you don’t have to go through additional conditions such as sleep problems. Start working on them by improving your sleep habits and get help from a doctor who understands your health well.
Chrissy Ryland - I'm a freelance writer and blogger from Northern California. I grew up loving all things entertainment and travel and now I am blessed with a career that lets me write about both of those topics along with many others. For inquiries about a story you think I might want to cover, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org