Sleep Patterns in Seniors: By Toni R Hendrix-Green (May 24, 2017)

As we age our bodies experience change in many ways.  We find that we are more sensitive to noise, light, touch, tastes, and smells.  The inability to rest while sleeping is high on the list.  Over a period (different from person to person), our bodies become deregulated during sleeping hours.  For whatever reason, whether it is medical, psychological, or emotional, our sleep patterns change.  It is not uncommon to learn that “[a]s people age they tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep than when they were younger” (Aging and sleep, 2009).  While the cause for irregular sleep patterns may not be obvious, the change itself is.  The reason for broken rest and/or insomnia has been connected to sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, loneliness, and a host of other problems/issues.  Because of this, there is a concern that there are risks associated with poor sleeping patterns and those risks place our seniors in danger.  The dangers with irregular sleep patterns is more relevant for our seniors because, “—[they] are more likely to have depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls, and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. Poor sleep is also associated with a poorer quality of life” (Sleep and Aging, 2012).  WebMD suggests these tips to help resolve poor sleep patterns in seniors:

  • Stick to a regular bedtime
  • Take a warm bath
  • Take time to calm down
  • Make the bedroom a sleep zone
  • Avoid afternoon naps
  • Don’t drink alcohol close to bedtime
  • Drink less fluid at night
  • Wear yourself out
  • Get some sun (How to Sleep Better, 2015)

As caregivers, family members, and/or loved ones of a senior, we will have to be watchful for signs that they may develop over time.  If we pay attention to their habits and behavior, we can report any concerns to health care providers who can create a treatment plan.  Our senior community depend on us to be there as they were/are there for us.  This is a changing of the guard (so to speak) and we are on duty!

Sources Cited:

Aging and Sleep. (2009, December). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/aging-and-sleep

How to Sleep Better as You Get Older. (2015, October 9). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/aging-affects-sleep#1

Sleep and Aging. (2012, December). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://nihseniorhealth.gov/sleepandaging/aboutsleep/01.html