Understanding Sleep Problems In Seniors And What To Do

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Sleep Problems In Seniors

As many people age, their sleep patterns change. Some may find it more difficult to sleep, while others fall asleep on a whim. Contrary to popular belief, sleep needs do not decrease as individuals age. Although they may not be as active as they once were, they still need to get plenty of sleep to stay healthy – both physically and mentally.

Common Factors That Cause Sleeping Problems

Many older people complain that it takes them longer to fall asleep compared to when they were younger. They also complain of an increase in the number of times they wake up during the night, and the increased difficulty in getting back to sleep if they do.

Another contributing factor to sleep problems experienced among the aged population is the presence of physical or mental illness. These illnesses are often treated with prescription medications, and many of these medications come with side effects, which can include sleeping problems.

Next, they may have a change in their circadian rhythm, which can be yet another factor that affects their ability to achieve quality sleep. Many seniors find themselves feeling sleepy during the early evening, so they need to retire early, and in doing so they are wide awake very early in the morning. Experts have not yet found conclusive evidence which explains why these changes in a person’s circadian rhythm occur as people age.


Insomnia is a condition that often becomes more prevalent among the senior population. Unfortunately, insomnia has been associated with an increased risk of many diseases and poor overall health, such as an increase in falls and injuries, and cognitive impairment.

In some cases, insomnia appears to be the result of other medical conditions. However, it is more often than not the precursor of these conditions. Seniors diagnosed with insomnia have often been found to be suffering from cardiovascular, or respiratory disease, diabetes, hypertension and/or mood disorders.

Sleep Deprivation Can Lead to Serious Consequences

Regardless of age, our brain goes through a self-cleaning process when we sleep. This is one reason why sleep deprivation can lead to many health problems. A lack of sleep means the brain cannot do what it needs to do, and one of those needs is to clean out toxic waste.

If the brain cannot clean itself, and the toxic waste builds up in the brain’s cells, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders may come into existence, or worsen. Sufficient sleep is crucial for keeping the brain cell wastes at a level where they do not become a serious health concern.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Usually snoring is seen as an annoying problem, rather than a sign of something more serious, such as sleep apnea. Whether it is a sign of sleep apnea or not, there is no doubt that snoring is a very disruptive behavior to quality sleep. Many snorers are woken up by their own snorts.

If snoring issues are left unchecked, and if it is in fact due to OSA or Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a person’s breathing stops for a lengthy period of time, and this can significantly affect an individual’s level of oxygen present in the blood. This leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Sleep apnea can also cause excessive daytime sleepiness, which again exacerbates the annoying circle of disrupted sleep patterns.

Restless Legs Syndrome

This is another annoying sleep problem for seniors. RLS is characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs. Although RLS or Restless Legs Syndrome can occur during the day, it often occurs at night, which is when the symptoms become worse. Although the symptoms may vary from one person to another, most seniors complain about their need to move their limbs once they are in bed.

Seniors need their sleep, so whatever it takes to make them comfortable and sleepy is worth trying. If they can get a good night’s sleep every night, their physical health will improve, and their brain will stay clean and healthy too.

Understanding Sleep Problems In Seniors And What To Do

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