Managing Sleep Problems In The Elderly

Managing Sleep Problems In The Elderly

Do you notice the elderly around you falling sick often, confused, anxious or depressed? Do they seem to be more irritable than usual? Also, are they unsteady with balance issues and fall down often? All these issues can be attributed to one major factor which most of us seem to overlook – a restful sleep at night!

Sleep Architecture

A common misconception in our society is that sleep automatically reduces or declines as we age. Many elders complain that they have difficulty with their sleep patterns, as compared to their younger days. This happens due to changes in one’s ‘sleep architecture.’ We have periods of deep sleep as well as light sleep and research shows that elders get more amounts of light sleep. Hence, fatigue symptoms are clearly visible in them, due to the lack of sleep. Another issue with sleep is when the ‘internal body clock’ that regulates the 24-hour cycle of our biological processes, gets affected. This is called the Circadian rhythm, a Latin word that literally means ‘around the day.’

The Circadian Cycle

The Circadian cycle is based upon the light-dark patterns resulting in sleep disorders like Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) or Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS) wherein sleep is unusually delayed or comes too early. Insomnia is also experienced in people aged 65 and over, ranging between 12 to 30 per cent. Although many of the aged yearn for a good night’s sleep, they have trouble getting it. They also wake up after a light sleep. This results in intense daytime fatigue, which is evident in reduced energy levels that can impact driving or any other daily activity. However, research has proved the effectiveness of physical exercise like brisk walking and moderate resistance training tailored to the needs of older adults.

Tips To Tackle Sleep Problems

These simple tips may help tackle sleep problems amongst the elderly.

  • The adopting of a regular sleep schedule which reinforces the body to maintain a proper time for sleeping and waking up
  • Staying active with regular exercise to promote better, deeper sleep and which will help to fall asleep faster
  • Adopting a bedtime ritual like a warm shower, staying away from TV, etc.
  • Staying away from alcohol
  • Being mindful of bedtime snacks and avoiding caffeine
  • Limiting the use of sleeping pills, as these only address the symptoms and not the actual cause

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