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Seniors and Insomnia Help for the Elderly

All Heart Home Care San Diego Seniors and Insomnia Help for the Elderly

This article discusses information on seniors and insomnia help for the elderly. It is normal to have trouble sleeping every now and then.  However, if you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis it can become a serious problem that may impact your health. Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep is known as insomnia.  It is a very common health condition in older people.  The National Sleep Foundation estimates that more than 60 percent of people aged over 65 have trouble sleeping — a figure that is much higher than other age groups.

Chronic insomnia can dramatically impact a person’s quality of life, particularly as they get older.  This article will examine the causes of insomnia and offer some fantastic tips for overcoming this horrible sleeping disorder.

How Sleep Changes as You Age

The amount of a sleep that a person requires varies throughout their life.  Newborns and children can require as much as 16-hours of sleep per day, while adults typically require between 7-9 hours of sleep per day.

The quality of sleep that a person obtains is very important.  There are five different stages of sleep — Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) 1, NREM 2, NREM 3, NREM 4 and Rapid Eye Movement (REM).  These 5 stages occur between 4-5 times per night and take approximately 90 minutes with each iteration.

Scientists believe that the most restful part of sleep is stage 3 and stage 4, when there is no eye movement or muscle activity.  If a person does not reach that stage while sleeping, they may wake up still feeling tired.

As a person gets older, their sleep cycle tends to change and they may not reach NREM 3, NREM 4 and REM as often.  Older people are light sleepers who do not always reach the full 90 minutes required for a sleep cycle.  These changes occur as a result of the aging process and certain health conditions common in older people.

The Causes of Insomnia

In addition to changing sleep cycles, older people are more likely to experience insomnia for a number of reasons including:

  • Medications
    Some of the medications that older people take may have side effects which make it difficult to sleep.
  • Health Conditions
    Health conditions including heart disease, acid reflux, sleep apnea, prostatitis, and arthritis can cause insomnia.
  • Anxiety and Stress
    Many older people have sources of stress and anxiety in their life. They may be worried about their health, their finances or their family.  These issues may keep them awake at night.
  • A Lack of Exercise
    Many older people become less active as they age. A lack of exercise can contribute to insomnia.
  • Irregular sleep schedules
    If a person sleeps at random times throughout the day, it can become more difficult to fall asleep at night.

Insomnia can be short term, lasting for a few weeks at a time or long term, lasting for months or years.  Some of the common side effects of insomnia include memory problems, irritability, depression and an increased risk of heart disease.

How to Treat Insomnia

There are a variety of simple techniques which can reduce the likelihood that you experience insomnia.  They include:

Create the perfect environment for sleep

It is important to create an environment which is conducive to having good sleep.  The room should be quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature.  Wash your sheets regularly and sleep in a made bed.  Remove any noise sources from your room like ticking alarm clocks.

Some people find it easier to go to sleep if they use aromatherapy in their bedroom.  Lavender, bergamot and sandalwood are all fantastic oils for obtaining a good night’s sleep.

Turn off the bright and noisy devices before bed

Make a habit of gradually turning off your lights before heading to bed and turning the television off a good 30 minutes before bed.  Avoid using electronic devices before bed and definitely avoid the Internet!

Create a relaxation routine

You may benefit from developing a relaxation routine which is performed before going to bed each night.  This routine can include relaxing activities like taking a bath, yoga, meditating, performing some breathing exercises or reading a book.

Exercise during the day

By undertaking some additional exercise during the day, you can exhaust your body and clear your mind.  Consider gardening, which is very relaxing, constructive and uses a lot of energy.

Don’t eat large meals before bed

If your body is struggling to process a large meal, it can be difficult to drift off to sleep.  Eat a light dinner and avoid sugary desserts.

Don’t sleep too much during the day

Many older people with insomnia become so tired from their lack of sleep at night that they begin to nap frequently during the day.  The problem with napping during the day is that you will be wide awake when it is time for bed in the evening.  If you have insomnia, avoid napping during the day.

Avoid caffeine

Don’t drink any caffeinated beverages after 5pm to avoid them interfering with your sleep.

Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep

If you have been lying in bed for 30 minutes and cannot sleep, get up and tackle a boring task.  This can distract you for a while and before you know it, you will feel tired and can successfully go to sleep.

Seek help from a professional

A medical professional can prescribe sleeping pills to help tackle your insomnia.  They may also help diagnose the reason why you are having trouble sleeping.

We hope you enjoyed this article on seniors and insomnia help for the elderly.  If you have any questions about the article or would like to discuss our non-medical home care services, contact All Heart Home Care at 619-736-4677.  We offer free in-home consultations and we would love to explain the many benefits of using our home care services.

Eric Barth
Eric Barth
CEO and blogger for All Heart Home Care. I devote myself to helping seniors age in their own home while maintaining a feeling of independence, preserve their dignity, and enhance the quality of their life. I write these blogs to help educate the public on issues surrounding what seniors find to be the most important. My blogs are from my own personal research. I hope you enjoy my blog posts.

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