Aging is a scary process for the majority because it is associated with death. The common notion is that the body begins to shut down and life is slowly sucked away from you. But this should not be the case as old age can be enjoyed. All one needs to do is manage their shortcoming, stay positive and strive for better sleep. There are complications, disorders, and psychosocial issues that rise up but the secret is to manage them through diet, exercise, and fun activities.
Despite the health and physical challenges, seniors can be faced with either sleep disorders or sleep challenges. In the same manner that the body changes as individuals get older, sleeping patterns and habits also change. The phenomenon is fairly common among the older generation. Characteristics exhibited in sleep disorders include:
- Sleeping for fewer hours
- Less sleep quality
- Trouble falling asleep
- Frequently waking up at night or morning (sleeping breaks)
Just as sleep is important at all levels of ages, it is important for seniors. Sleeping disorders may lead to health concerns, for example, the increased risk of falling and daytime fatigue. Many senior citizens complain about the trouble of maintaining a good night’s sleep and the complaints are many because the problem is prevalent among the old aged people. Treatment is available in different forms including medication and therapy but the best way to seek treatment is via therapy as it has no side effects.
Causes of Sleep Disorders in Old Age Adults
Before seeking ways through which seniors can get better sleep, it is important to understand what the main cause of sleeping disorders are among seniors. Causes of sleeping disorders among seniors can be categorized into different groups: primary sleep disorders, medical conditions, medication and common substances.
Primary Sleep Disorders
A primary sleep disorder means that they are natural and are not caused by medication or psychiatric condition. One natural disorder is insomnia which is the difficulty of falling asleep, restless sleep or difficulty in staying asleep. Another disorder is sleep apnea that comprises brief interruptions in breathing while an individual is sleeping. A senior may have an overwhelming need to continuously move their legs during sleep. The phenomenon is called Restless Leg Syndrome which differs from periodic limb movement disorder. This disorder involves the involuntary movement of limbs during sleep. Other sleeping disorders include: circadian rhythm sleep disorder and REM behavior disorder.
According to a study conducted on sleeping problems among older Singaporeans, those that had a problem with sleeping were linked to having pre-existing medical conditions as well as being less physically active. Below is a list of medical conditions that may cause seniors to have sleeping problems:
- Alzheimer’s diseases
- Parkinson’s disease
- Pain from arthritis
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Gastrointestinal conditions
- Poor bladder control
Seniors take a lot of medication to keep their health in check. Although diet and exercises are the best remedies for a healthy senior, many resorts to medication for the purpose of treating chronic diseases. The medication they take may cause problems with their sleeping habits. Medicine with such side effects include;
- H2 blockers used for peptic ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
- Diuretics for high blood pressure
- Levodopa for Parkinson’s
Common factors such as smoking, alcohol, and caffeine may contribute to sleeping problems.
Having discussed the problems and causes, what are the remedies to sleeping disorders?
Encourage better sleep
Boost your melatonin levels naturally
One of the things that suppress your body’s levels of melatonin is the presence of artificial lights in your room. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for making you sleepy. You can boost your melatonin levels by using low-wattage bulbs where it is safe to do so. Also, turn off the TV at least an hour before you go to sleep.
Do not read from a backlit device at night
Devices such as iPads are backlit and should be avoided at night. If you use a portable electronic device to read, then you should use an e-Reader that needs an additional light source.
Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool before bed
In order to sleep well, you need to prepare well. Light As you get older, you become more sensitive to noise. Heat and light will also easily irritate you and even wake you from your sleep. To avoid these distractions, set up your bedroom such that it is quiet, cool, dark, and your bed is comfortable to lie in. you can also use a sound machine, a sleep mask, or earplugs to help you sleep.
Your bedroom is only for sleep and sex
You need to avoid using your bedroom for work, watching TV, or even using your laptop in bed. If you get rid of such bad habits, then your brain will associate the bedroom with only sex and sleep, which will facilitate better sleep.
Move clocks out of view
The light produced from your wall clock will distract you from better sleep because you are more sensitive to light as you age. Also, staring at the minutes and seconds tick away is a classic formula for insomnia.
Keep a regular bedtime routine
Employ a consistent sleeping pattern
To make your sleep more regular, you will need to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including the weekend. It may be difficult at first, but after weeks of consistency, you will begin to adopt a regular sleeping schedule.
Cancel out the snoring
If you regularly snore at night, it can disrupt your sleep’s quality. This would lead to fatigue, irritability, and aggravated health issues. As you get older, you are more prone to snoring as is your partner; hence you need to block it out. You can do this by using earplugs, separate bedrooms, losing weight, quitting smoking, and keeping your bedroom air moist.
Limit sleep aids and sleeping pills
Most sleep aids have side effects when used in the long term. Sleeping pills do not address insomnia, and could even worsen it.
The above are some of the methods you can use to improve the quality of your sleep as you age. If they are not effective, you can try psychotherapy to help treat a severe sleeping problem. Better sleep is within your grasp, you only have to take it!