Wake Up to the Dangers of Sleep Deficiency in Seniors

sleep deficiency in seniors
Learn why sleep deficiency in seniors is so common – and dangerous.

There are few things as frustrating as tossing and turning in the middle of the night, knowing you need to get a good night’s sleep, but unable to stop the mental wheels from turning. Our brains seem to stubbornly refuse to shut down, urging us to resolve all of our problems, finish whatever we’ve left undone, or sometimes even just toss out useless bits of information. And it seems that while sleep eludes us when we need it the most, we finally drift off just as the alarm goes off!

While problems such as this are common for many of us, sleep deficiency in seniors is even more prevalent, for a number of reasons, such as:

  • RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome): RLS is a neurological movement disorder that causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs when trying to rest, especially in the evening. This condition can also cause feelings of creeping, pulling, or tingling in the legs, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea): OSA causes the senior’s breathing to stop and start repeatedly during sleep. This is the result of the person’s throat muscles periodically relaxing and blocking the airway while sleeping, which can disrupt sleep.
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease): COPD makes it difficult to empty air out of the lungs, leading to shortness of breath and exhaustion, as the senior is working harder to breathe.

But there’s more. Certified sleep medicine neurologist Jack Gardner, MD, explains, “Insomnia is more common for seniors, partly because of health issues, partly because of the anxiety and the concerns of aging, and sometimes because of medication.”

The good news is there are steps you can take to prevent or overcome sleep deficiency in seniors. Try:

  • Setting and sticking to a sleep routine. Falling asleep and waking up at the same time each day is a great way to improve sleep. This is contrary to the notion that you can sleep in on the weekends to make up for lost time during the week. Consistency is key to achieve higher quality of sleep regardless of the day’s plans.
  • Staying physically active. This can be challenging for some older adults, but check with the doctor for a recommended exercise plan. Then help your loved one stay motivated to follow the plan. One effective way to do this is by exercising together and serving as each other’s accountability partner.
  • Creating a calming bedtime routine. An hour or so before bedtime, turn off all electronic devices and engage in soothing activities, such as a warm bath, listening to quiet music, reading, etc. Make sure the bedroom is cool and dark. If the senior is unable to fall asleep within 10 or 15 minutes, it’s better to get out of bed and find another calming activity than to keep tossing and turning.

If sleep problems are concerning, it’s always a good idea to talk with the senior’s doctor to see if there are any medication side effects or other medical issues to blame. It may be that a simple adjustment to the time a medication is taken makes a world of difference.

At Nightingale Homecare, the top provider of caregiving services in Peoria, AZ and the surrounding areas, we’re here to help seniors get the rest they need in a variety of ways! We can ensure there are plenty of engaging activities to participate in throughout the day, exercise together with seniors, ensure medications are taken as prescribed, and so much more. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!