Staring at the clock. Tossing and turning. Counting sheep. If this describes a common evening for your senior loved one, recognize that he or she is not alone. While older individuals have the need for at least seven hours of sleep each night, as many as 50 percent of all older adults report problems with falling and/or staying asleep. Yet it’s important to understand that even while senior sleep problems may be typical, they are not a normal part of getting older – and there are steps that can be taken to improve sleep for your elderly loved ones.
First, it’s essential to rule out a clinical sleep disorder, which can include symptoms experienced routinely such as:
- Difficulty falling asleep even when tired
- Difficulty falling back to sleep once awakened
- Drowsiness or irritability during waking hours
- Concentration or focus concerns, or falling asleep when sitting still (such as when driving or watching TV)
- Unmanageable emotions
- Dependency on alcohol or sleeping pills to obtain necessary sleep
The doctor ought to be consulted if a sleep disorder is suspected. For many older individuals, however, there’s an underlying cause behind the insomnia. A few of the common causes of senior sleep difficulties are detailed below, with strategies to help:
- An environment that’s not conducive to rest and sleep. Confirm that the senior’s bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. Remove the TV and any electronic devices from the bedroom, and stick to a regular sleep routine that includes soothing music, a warm bath, reading, or any other calming activities, in addition to a set time to go to bed each night.
- Medicine side effects. Evaluate all of your loved one’s medicines – both prescription and non-prescription – to find out if sleep disruptions may develop, and then talk with the senior’s doctor about whether any medication changes are required.
- A sedentary lifestyle. Staying as active as possible through the day can make a big difference in the senior’s ability to experience an improved night’s sleep. Encourage your senior loved one to enroll in an exercise class, go for a walk each morning, or join a local swimming pool and make a point to swim each day (all with the doctor’s approval).
- Chronic disease complications. Conditions such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, osteoporosis, and others can lead to senior sleep disruptions. Check with the senior’s physician for recommendations.
- Post-menopause. We know that the hot flashes often encountered in menopause can interfere with sleep, but hormone-related sleep issues can continue after menopause as well. The lifestyle adjustments mentioned above might help.
The top providers of home care in Kansas City, MO at Enhanced Home Care can assist with senior sleep concerns in a number of ways as well. Reach out to us at 913-327-0000 to arrange for 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.