Seniors & Sleep
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Interviewees: Darla Schall, Director of Nursing for Clark-Lindsey’s Meadowbrook Health Center
1. How do sleep patterns change as people age?
Sleep needs change over a person's lifetime. Unfortunately, many older adults often get less sleep than they need. One reason is that they often have more trouble falling asleep as well as staying asleep. Many people believe that poor sleep is a normal part of aging, but it is not. Sleep patterns do change as we age, but disturbed sleep and waking up tired every day are not part of normal aging.
2. What keeps seniors from falling/staying asleep?
A study of adults over 65 found that 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. There are many possible explanations for these changes. Older adults may produce and secrete less melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. They may also be more sensitive to -- and may awaken because of -- changes in their environment, such as noise and heat and cold.
Several other factors may contribute to sleeplessness in older adults:
Medical issues: chronic pain, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea to name a couple
Lifestyle habits such as smoking, alcohol and caffeine intake
Older adults often sleep less deeply and wake up more often throughout the night, which may be why they may nap more often during the daytime. Nighttime sleep schedules may change with age too. Many older adults tend to get sleepier earlier in the evening and awaken earlier in the morning.
3. How much sleep do seniors need?
Interestingly, older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults – which is between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. This can depend on their daily activity. The more active the more sleep that is required
4. How does sleep help them stay healthy, and what health issues specifically for seniors, does sleep help combat?
Just like any of us, by getting enough sleep older adults have more energy, sharper minds and avoid sickness. Not sleeping well can lead to a number of problems. Older adults who have poor nighttime sleep patterns are more likely to have depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls, and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. Be more susceptible colds and flu. Poor sleep is also associated with a poorer quality of life.
5. What are some tips to sleeping better throughout the night?
Watch caffeine intake throughout the day, especially within several hours before bed.
Try to avoid napping no more than 20 minutes at a time.
Keep active or increase activity/exercise.
Use the bedroom for sleep—avoid reading, snacking and watching TV in bed.
Try to keep a regular sleep schedule.
If you are having trouble sleeping, consult your doctor.