Sleep habits shift throughout our lives and the early to bed, early to rise pattern often found in young children returns in older age. However, due to frequent wakening throughout the night, seniors get less rest than any other age group.
Studies have found older adults have a reduction in quality of sleep due to difficulty falling asleep, reduced rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, wakening more easily and more often and other complications from medications or conditions such as restless leg syndrome. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the amount of delta sleep we achieve, considered the deepest and most rejuvenating type of sleep, declines with age. When the elderly are not getting proper rest at night, daytime napping becomes more frequent.
Insomnia, difficulty falling or remaining asleep, is very common in older adults and effects almost half of all those over the age of 65. Insomnia is seen in more women than men and is a frequent occurrence in those with neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s. In fact, sleep disorders can be an early warning sign of Parkinson’s and according to a review in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, up to 70 per cent of PD patients experience sleep problems.
Sleeplessness can cause a host of adverse effects for the elderly and especially those with chronic diseases. It can increase the risk of falls and injury, prevent safe driving, impair cognition, create social isolation and worsen symptoms of depression.
Tips For a Better Night’s Sleep (Canadian Sleep Society)
- Consult a doctor about primary sleep disorders (such as snoring or menopause)
- Discuss any adverse affects associated with medication with your doctor
- Keep a regular sleep schedule
- Minimize stress, especially before bedtime
- Reduce caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- Create a quiet, dark room for sleep with a comfortable temperature
- Avoid eating or exercise near bedtime
- Get outside in natural light for a walk during the day
- Staying active, eating well and maintaining good health is associated with good sleep
For more information about sleep changes in the elderly, give The Insomnia Rounds a read at http://www.insomniarounds.ca/crus/150-004%20English.pdf and consult your doctor for treatment options.
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