We hear it all our lives: “If you don’t sleep, you’ll never get anything done!” It’s one of the few absolutes, and it remains true throughout our lives.
From the time we’re born, adequate sleep is vital to a variety of basic human functions, including memory, immune function and emotional health.
For seniors, sleep can be elusive.
Recent studies show that up to fifty percent of people over the age of 60 suffer from some form of insomnia. This ongoing problem can have a drastic impact on the quality of life that an aging person experiences.
Check out these little-known facts about the importance of sleep for senior citizens.
Why Are Seniors So Likely to Experience Insomnia?
Contrary to popular belief, senior citizens don’t need less sleep than the average adult. In fact, studies have shown that the required amount of sleep stays roughly the same from our twenties throughout old age. Yet so many seniors seem to struggle with lower quality sleep in shorter durations.
The increase in sleeplessness that occurs after the age of sixty can be attributed to many factors:
- Medical conditions like heart arrhythmia, acid reflux, arthritis or angina can cause nighttime pain, sleeplessness and tossing and turning
- Prostate problems or incontinence can cause constant trips to the bathroom throughout the night, preventing many seniors from reaching and maintaining a deep sleep
- Depression, dementia, and social isolation can cause increased mental stress and sleeplessness
- Lack of exercise, fresh air and sunlight, due to limited mobility, can leave seniors with altered circadian biologic clocks
- Side effects of certain medications, such as beta blockers, can cause insomnia
- There is also evidence that older adults simply produce less melatonin, a key hormone in regulating sleep cycles
These are just a few of the risk-factors and causes of insomnia in the aging population; each individual’s risk factors will vary according to their own living situation and health.
How Can Lack of Sleep Affect You or Your Aging Loved One?
Both young adults and older adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Unfortunately, a recent study revealed that 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women over the age of 65 reported needing more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. They also reported a harder time staying asleep through the night.
One of the key side effects of insomnia in the aging population is memory loss.
Senior respondents in a study from UC Berkeley showed 75 percent poorer quality of sleep than young adults in the same study; they also performed far worse on memory-related activities after a bad night’s sleep.
Lack of sleep can also contribute to a number of chronic diseases, including obesity and high blood pressure. For seniors, these types of health conditions can have a lasting impact on their quality of life.
How Can You Help Your Loved One Sleep Better?
Helping your loved one sleep better is simple with the right advice on hand.
For starters, recommend a doctor visit if you notice that your aging loved one has consistent issues with getting deep, replenishing sleep. This will help determine if your loved one is struggling with medical conditions that cause pain or constant sleeplessness.
Make sure your loved one has the medication and the support they need to sleep peacefully each night. This can include organizing doctor’s visits, scheduling medication pick ups, or hiring a home healthcare provider to offer assistance when and where your aging loved one needs it.
Bluebird Homecare is a top provider of in-home care and specialized services to meet your loved one’s needs.
We proudly offer hourly services that can be catered to you loved one’s schedule, even during overnight hours. With a Bluebird Homecare provider on hand, your loved one will have assistance getting in and out of bed, reaching the restroom and remembering any nighttime medications. With a great homecare provider, your loved one can achieve deeper and more replenishing sleep.
Contact Bluebird to learn more about our services or request a free, in-home consultation.