You probably know the feeling of having had a bad night’s sleep. Maybe you have a harder time focusing and everything and it seems like it requires more energy. Yet with a little extra caffeine, you can make it through the day without anyone noticing. It’s only when a bad night’s sleep persists for a long time that it begins to take a toll on the overall quality of your life. Not only can you become increasingly irritable, depressed, and unable to focus, but seniors also risk much more serious consequences – including falls. Here are some of the most common reasons older adults may have difficulty sleeping as well as a few ways home care can help.
Common Reasons Seniors Have Trouble Sleeping
Many factors can contribute to the sleep problems aging adults increasingly experience.
Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder
Advanced sleep phase disorder is a common circadian sleep disorder among the elderly. Circadian rhythms are biological rhythms or changes that control your sleep-wake cycle as well as many of your other physiological functions.
Advanced sleep phase disorder occurs when your sleep-wake cycle shifts forward causing you to feel sleepy early in the evening and wake up early in the morning. This can be fine if you adjust your lifestyle to accommodate this shift, but this isn’t always easy to do. Many seniors attempt to resist this change, and as a result, they are left de-synchronized with their internal body clock. This can lead to sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Insomnia, the inability to fall or stay asleep, is another sleep disorder increasingly prevalent among older adults. Chronic insomnia among the elderly differs in that is is often co-morbid. There are often a variety of factors associated with their insomnia including psychiatric conditions such as depression or anxiety, medical conditions, and shifts in their circadian rhythm.
Sleep apnea occurs when your airway becomes constricted or blocked while you are sleeping. Without getting into too much detail, there are three main types of sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. OSA occurs when the muscles in your throat completely relax when you fall into a deep slumber causing your airways to become partially or completely blocked.
Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the airway blockage happens because your brain fails to send a signal to the muscles that control your breathing.
Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
The risk of developing sleep apnea increases are you get older and can wreak havoc on your health. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, increase memory loss and cause depression.
How Home Care Can Improve Sleep
Home care can be extremely beneficial for seniors with sleep conditions. Here are a few ways it can help.
Caregivers can help regulate sleeping hours.
Many of sleep disorders, such as insomnia and advanced sleep phase disorder, can be improved by maintaining a consistent schedule.
Caregivers can be great for keeping you or your senior loved one on a consistent sleep schedule. Furthermore, they can stay on the lookout for changes in their wakefulness and take steps to ensure they are getting enough sleep.
Home care can reduce stress.
Stress is a common cause of insomnia. Having an in-home caregiver can alleviate some of the stress you experience, allowing you to sleep better.
Caregivers can uncover breathing problems.
Not only can home care alleviate many of the obstacles that interfere with the duration and quality of your slumber, but they can also help you identify underlying issues you were unaware of.
Many seniors, particularly those who live alone, are completely unaware they have a sleep condition such as sleep apnea. Becuase sleep apneas occur while you are sleeping, it often takes another person to bring the signs to your attention.
Caregivers can note your sleeping behaviors and alert you of any irregularities. For example, loud snoring can be a key indicator of obstructive sleep apnea. Caregivers can let you know if you snore loud – something you might not otherwise be aware of.
Loud snoring is also associated with other health problems such as high blood pressure.
Caregivers can help prepare your bedroom.
Caregivers can help seniors by preparing their bedroom for sleep. They can do this by ensuring the room is quiet and dark. Caregivers can also make sure your sheets, pillows, and blankets are washed on a regular basis.
Tips For a Good Night’s Sleep
Be intentional about sleep. For many adults, sleep is something that just happens. You go bed when you are tired and can’t stay up any longer. Being intentional about your sleep requires you to make sleep a priority.
Keep a regular schedule. Going to bed and waking up at different times can disrupt your circadian rhythm, triggering insomnia and daytime sleepiness. One of the best ways to ensure you get a good night’s sleep is to have a consistent sleep schedule; yes this includes weekends.
Be smart about naps. If you want to take a nap, be sure to take it in the earlier part of the day. Taking a nap too late can keep you awake at night.
Have a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is a great way to end your day. It helps prime your body for sleep.
Take a warm shower. Your body temperature naturally decreases when you sleep. Taking a warm shower helps prepare you for bed by forcing you to cool down.
Avoid light. Light inhibits the production of melatonin, your body’s natural sleeping pill. Try to avoid light during the last hour before bed. This includes cell phones and television.
Avoid caffeine after noon. Caffeine can stay in your system for long after you feel it effects. Avoid drinking caffeine afternoon.
Avoid alcohol. Many adults claim alcohol helps them fall asleep faster. While you may think it’s helping you, it is proven to decrease the quality and duration of your slumber.
Don’t Ignore Negative Sleep-Related Changes
Many older adults find themselves getting less and less sleep as they transition into the later years of their lives. Assuming it is just a normal part of the aging process, this change often goes ignored. Unfortunately, failing to address changes in your sleep patterns can be detrimental to your health. If you or a loved one experience negative changes in your sleep quality, address it before it negatively affects your overall well-being.
Stepnowsky, Carl J, and Sonia Ancoli-Israel. “Sleep and Its Disorders in Seniors.” Sleep medicine clinics 3.2 (2008): 281–293. PMC. Web. 9 Mar. 2018.