Tossing and turning. Counting sheep. Staring at the clock. If this represents a normal evening for your senior loved one, understand that he or she is far from alone. While seniors need to have at least 7 hours of sleep every night, a full 50% of all older adults report concerns with falling and/or staying asleep. Yet it’s essential to understand that although senior sleep issues may be widespread, they are not a normal part of aging – and there are steps that can be taken to improve sleep for your elderly loved ones.
First, it’s necessary to rule out a clinical sleep disorder, which could include effects that occur routinely such as:
- Difficulty with falling asleep even when tired
- Difficulty with falling back to sleep once awakened
- Drowsiness or irritability during waking hours
- Concentration or focus struggles, or falling asleep when sitting still (such as when driving or watching TV)
- Uncontrollable emotions
- Reliance on alcohol or sleeping pills to obtain needed sleep
The physician must be consulted if a sleep disorder is suspected. For many seniors, however, there’s an underlying cause behind the insomnia. A few of the common causes of senior sleep difficulties are detailed below, together with strategies to help:
- An environment that’s not conducive to sleep. Ensure the senior’s bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. Take out the television set and any electronics from the bedroom, and follow a regular sleep routine that includes soothing music, a warm bath, reading, or any other comforting activities, followed by a set time to go to bed each night.
- Medication side effects. Review any medicines – both prescription and non-prescription – to find out if sleep disruptions may occur, and then talk with the senior’s physician about whether any medication adjustments are warranted.
- A sedentary way of life. Remaining as active as possible through the day can make a big difference in the senior’s ability to experience a better night’s sleep. Encourage your senior loved one to enroll in an exercise class, take a daily morning walk, or join a local pool and commit to swimming each day (all with the physician’s approval).
- Chronic disease complications. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, osteoporosis, and others can lead to senior sleep disruptions. Consult with the senior’s physician for recommendations.
- Post-menopause. It’s common knowledge that the hot flashes often experienced in the course of menopause can impede sleep, but hormone-related sleep disturbances can continue after menopause too. The lifestyle adjustments outlined above might help.
At-Home Care Company provides at home care Ames and the surrounding area can count on, and we can help with senior sleep issues in a number of ways. Reach out to us at 515-292-2650 in Ames or 515-963-4410 in Ankeny to request a free in-home assessment to learn more! And visit our Service Area page to find out if our personalized home care services for seniors are available in your area.