Insomnia is the most frequent sleep problem that seniors deal with, and it affects almost half of adults over the age of 60. If your loved one is complaining of restless nights, and you see the side effects affecting their daily life, there are things you can do help them get back on track. Insomnia doesn’t have to be a permanent condition.
First, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes for insomnia.
As people age, bladder control becomes increasingly difficult. Your loved one may be waking up multiple times throughout the night to use the washroom. Prostate enlargement in men and continence issues in women also exacerbate the problem.
Many chronic health conditions can interfere with a comfortable night’s sleep such as heartburn, arthritis and aches and pains. Other conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia can also impact sleep. Even depression and insomnia are closely related.
It’s likely that your loved one is on at least a few medications, so check the labels and see if sleep changes are a side effect. You can also ask a doctor or pharmacist. Many medications negatively affect sleep, leaving your loved one tired and drowsy during the day but awake at night.
It’s also possible that your loved one has some bad habits that are making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. They may be napping during the day and exercising less. If they don’t spend time outdoors in the sun, their circadian biological clock is affected.
Seniors also go through a lot of sleep changes as a natural part of aging. They tend to become sleepier earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. It’s important to adjust their sleep/wake schedules to accommodate these changing needs, otherwise they may compensate by napping.
What can be done to help your loved one relieve insomnia? Below are a few tips.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and certain over-the-counter medications.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day.
- Adopt a healthy bedtime regimen that includes a soak in the bath or reading a book.
- Keep the bedroom sleep-friendly. It should be dark, well-ventilated and quiet.
- Counseling may be helpful if the above tactics are ineffective.
- Some medications are available to help with falling and staying asleep.
If insomnia persists, talk to your loved one’s doctor about what can be done to improve the sleepless nights.