A Senior's Guide To Sleep and Aging

For most aging adults it can become increasingly difficult to get a good night’s sleep. While there’s no “quick fix” to curing the insomnia blues, sleep experts have discovered that our sleep patterns do indeed change over time. As we age, our brains tend to be less efficient and capable of producing hormones like melatonin, which regulates our alertness throughout the day.  

Common Sleep Disorders in Seniors

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to your physical health and emotional state. In the geriatric population, sleep deprivation and insomnia can lead to higher risks of cognitive impairment, dementia and even mortality. Common sleep disorders like apnea and insomnia can be detrimental to breathing abilities in older adults and can result in cognitive impairment.

Dementia Sleep Challenges

Older adults with a history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can experience changes in the brain that affect their ability to get a good night’s sleep. Nighttime wandering, daytime napping and shifting sleep cycles are all common side effects of dementia. A disruption in circadian rhythms and metabolism are significantly worse in seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  

Common Causes of Sleep Problems in Older Adults

Some of the most common causes of insomnia and sleep problems in older adults includes:

  • Poor Sleep Habits & Environment: Poor sleep habits can include irregular sleep hours, falling asleep with the TV on and consuming alcohol before bedtime.
  • Medical Conditions: Seniors can experience a variety of health conditions that can have a negative impact on their sleep. Some of these conditions include a frequent need to urinate, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, heartburn, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis.
  • Stress: A significant life change such as the death of a loved one or moving away from home can cause sleep debilitating stress in the elderly.
  • Menopause & Post-Menopause: During menopause and post-menopause, it is common for women to have difficulty sleeping due to hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Lack of Sunlight: Being exposed to bright sunlight can help regulate melatonin along with your sleep-wake cycles.

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