Tossing and turning. Counting sheep. Staring at the clock. If this represents a regular night for your aging loved one, understand that he or she is far from alone. While seniors have the need for at least seven hours of sleep each night, as many as half of all seniors report issues with falling and/or staying asleep. Yet it’s significant to understand that despite the fact that senior sleep problems may be prevalent, they are not a normal part of getting older – and there are actions that can be taken to improve sleep for your elderly loved ones.
First, it’s very important to rule out a clinical sleep disorder, which can include symptoms experienced regularly such as:
- Challenges with falling asleep even when tired
- Challenges with falling back to sleep once awakened
- Sleepiness or irritability during waking hours
- Concentration or focus problems, or falling asleep when sitting still (such as when riding in a car or watching TV)
- Uncontrollable emotions
- Dependency on alcohol or sleeping pills to get necessary sleep
The doctor needs to be consulted if a sleep disorder is suspected. For many older individuals, however, there’s an underlying factor behind the insomnia. Some of the common causes of senior sleep difficulties are listed below, with recommendations to help:
- An environment that’s detrimental to rest. Ensure the senior’s bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Take out the TV set and any electronic devices from the bedroom, and follow a regular sleep routine that includes relaxing music, a warm bath, reading, or any other comforting activities, in addition to a fixed time to go to bed every evening.
- Medication side effects. Evaluate all drugs the senior is taking – both prescription and OTC – to see if sleep disruptions may arise, and then talk with the senior’s doctor about whether any medication modifications are recommended.
- A sedentary way of life. Being as active as possible during the day can positively influence quality of sleep. Encourage your senior loved one to register for an exercise class, take a walk each afternoon, or join a local swim club and make an effort to swim each day (all with the physician’s approval).
- Chronic disease complications. Diseases such as dementia, diabetes, osteoporosis, and others can lead to senior sleep disruptions. Check with the senior’s physician for suggestions.
- Post-menopause. We know that the hot flashes often experienced during the course of menopause can interfere with sleep, but hormone-related sleep issues can continue after menopause too. The lifestyle adjustments mentioned above can help.
The Barrington caregiver team at Inspired Home Care can help with senior sleep complications in a number of ways as well. Call us at 847-787-7572 to arrange a free in-home meeting to learn more! And visit our Service Area page to see if our customized home care services are available in your area.