There’s more and more evidence that sleep problems such as insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness are more prevalent in older people.
Some of the reasons include:
- medication side effects
- increasing disease
- depression & anxiety
- limited mobility
Even changes in a person’s living situation, such as a move to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, and even a hospital stay, can affect sleep. Cognitive deficits and Alzheimer’s can also have drastic effects on a person’s sleeping habits.
In general, older people need less sleep than younger ones; and their sleep is less deep. Yet, insomnia is not a normal part of aging and can and should be treated. Recent studies in the journal, Sleep, found that getting too little sleep is a risk factor for depression. Older adults with poor night time sleep are more likely to have attention and memory problems. Lack of sleep has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well.
If you are having trouble sleeping at night, ask you doctor to help you determine if any of your current medications have connection to your sleep problem. Then you may determine if any daytime activities, such as naps are creating such sleep issues. Daily naps should be halted or at least reduced. Go outside for fresh air and sunlight, exercise, and to socialize with friends. Just exposure to sunlight may be helpful. Sleep disturbances result from disruption of the body’s circadian rhythms which are controlled by light and dark patterns. Age related changes in the eye may also reduce the amount of light that reaches an older person’s retina.
Most importantly is good sleep hygiene. Establish a bed time ritual such as a bath and quiet relaxing activity, such as meditation or prayer. A light snack in the evening is preferable and fluids should be restricted a few hours before bedtime to avoid the need to urinate during the night. Caffeine and alcohol should be limited. The bedroom should be dark, quiet and a little cool. If sleep enhancing techniques with out medication fail to work, prescription sleep medication should be considered. All sleep medications should be used with caution, as side effects are frequent. Such medication should be used in the lowest dose and intermittently rather than nightly, if possible.
If you are having trouble sleeping, please call the office today at 757-488-3333, so we can discuss your treatment plan. You don’t have to “live exhausted”!
~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD