Many senior citizens experience changes in their health which cause them to suffer from sleep disorders that can make it hard for them to fall asleep or stay asleep. Sleep disorders can affect your health in other areas as well, so it is important to find a way to manage these disorders before your health is impacted. We at Carefect Home Care Services understand the importance of a good night’s rest and have some tips for how to deal with sleep disorders.
Older adults often have more trouble falling asleep than people in younger age groups due to a variety of reasons, although these problems are most commonly caused by physical problems. Sleep disorders in seniors are often caused by bodily problems that come from aging. For instance, many seniors suffer from bodily pain, excess weight or ambulatory restrictions that can cause sleep disruption. Many senior citizens that suffer from arthritis or other bodily pain will find that they are woken up during the night because their pain is so strong. It is important for seniors to find a way to manage their pain that works successfully for them so that they will be able to get at least 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. Excess weight can also be a problem because many seniors are not getting enough exercise to allow them to stay fit. Excess weight can cause people to snore, especially if the weight is put on around the neck as it can cause breathing obstructions when lying down. Snoring can cause sleep disruptions for your partner as well as for yourself because some people snore so loud that they wake themselves up. Maintaining a healthy body weight can help keep snoring under control.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) are both very common in older adults and can cause sleep disruptions. In restless leg syndrome there is a feel of prickling sensation in the legs that can only be relieved by moving the legs or walking. Restless leg syndrome is often caused by low levels of ferritin (iron) in the body. Taking an iron supplement can help manage this problem, but too much iron can lead to Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s so it is important to carefully discuss this with a doctor before taking iron. Periodic limb movement disorder causes repetitive muscle movements during sleep which can last for a few minutes to an hour and can occur every 20-40 seconds. Periodic limb movement disorder is commonly found in those who suffer from restless leg syndrome, but it is important to realize that they are not the same thing. Primary PLMD can be caused by abnormalities in regulation of the nerves traveling from the brain to the limbs, but the cause of these abnormalities is not known. Secondary PLMD can be caused by a variety of things such as low levels of iron or hemoglobin, a spinal cord injury or tumor, sleep apnea, diabetes mellitus, uremia or medication usage. Figuring out what causes PLMD is very important and it is common for doctors to first take a blood test to look for low levels of iron and hemoglobin in the blood. There are a few different types of medications that doctors can prescribe to help manage PLMD, so patients suffering from PLMD should visit their doctor to discuss the right medication option for their condition. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is another common sleep disorder found in seniors. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to tell the lungs to breathe which causes the body to suffer from a lack of oxygen. Central sleep apnea is most commonly caused by aging and heart disease, but can often be the result of having a stroke. Patients with CSA will appear to have shallow breathing while sleeping. Central sleep apnea can be treated with medication that stimulates breathing, oxygen, a nasal CPAP or a BiPAP. A CPAP and a BiPAP work by placing a mask over the face and using a machine to apply pressure and deliver air to the nose. These machines are most commonly used on patients with obstructive sleep apnea, but they can be very helpful for patients with central sleep apnea as well.
Advanced sleep phase disorder (ASP) is another disease that affects seniors more often than people of other ages. ASP is not usually a very common disease, but those who do suffer from it are usually elderly people. ASP causes the body to have an abnormal circadian rhythm which causes people to go to sleep early in the evening usually between 6-9 pm and wake up early in the morning around 1-3 am. ASP can be treated with chronotherapy which is systematic advancement of bedtime until the desired bedtime is achieved. Treating ASP can be very important as many people with ASP miss out on social events due to their abnormal sleep times.
Seniors who experience sleep disorders should talk to their doctor because getting enough sleep is very important for healthy aging. Seniors should get 7-9 hours of sleep a night and should also avoid sleeping too long as this can result in negative side effects as well. Keep in mind that seniors should always talk to their doctor before attempting to treat themselves.
Other related or similar articles in our blog:
- The Benefits of Aromatherapy for Seniors
- Coping with Loneliness: Tips for Seniors
- Alzheimer’s disease – Understanding and Dealing with Difficult Behaviors