Insomnia Amongst the Elderly – Causes, Effects, Care and Prevention

One of the most common complaints that you hear from the elderly members of the family is that they do not get ‘good’ sleep. And we all know the importance of sleeping well, don’t we? This difficulty might range from restlessness during the sleep to a severe case of insomnia.

Insomnia is the official medical term for not being able to fall asleep (or stay asleep for long periods of time) and is a disorder that is prevalent in the older generation across the globe. This terrifying condition may last for days or months – and in some cases, even years!

Facts you should know about sleeping patterns in senior citizens

• Good quality sleep goes a long way in ensuring a fresh mind and body

• Getting adequate sleep can elevate your mood

• Older adults, contrary to popular beliefs, need at least seven hours of sleep every night

• Certain health problems can also cause sleep disorders

• Elders experience a change in circadian rhythm, causing them to feel sleepy earlier in the evening

• The shift in circadian rhythm also contributes to sleeping less deeply

 

Possible causes of insomnia among seniors

There are various causes that may lead to a senior citizen developing sleeping disorders like insomnia. Here are a few:

• Stress, depression, and anxiety

• Excessive consumption of stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine or alcohol

• Physical pain due to causal conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis

• Overactive bladder during the night or urinary disorders

• Cardiovascular conditions or heart failure

• Side effects of medication or drug therapy

• Irregular breathing due to underlying lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

• Gastrointestinal issues or heartburns

• Neurodegenerative conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

• Unbalanced or irregular sleeping schedules

• Sleep apnea (where you stop breathing while you sleep)

• Restless leg syndrome, excessive snoring or periodic limb movement disorder

 

Three ways of diagnosing insomnia

If you see the slightest symptoms of insomnia or sleep disorders, you must consult a medical professional immediately, before the problem gets worse or starts affecting your daily routine (and those around you).

1. Physical examination including a doctor questioning you about your medical history, the medications you have been taking and sleeping habits and typical patterns that you might have noticed.

2. You could also consider maintaining a regular sleep journal that helps you record sleeping and waking up time, noting down any sleep disturbances, typical state of mind before you go to sleep, etc. with the help of a loved one.

3. Polysomnogram is a field of study where a sleep expert analyzes the way an insomnia-affected individual sleeps overnight, including signs like twitching, breathing difficulties, changes in the heart rate, oxygen saturation, etc.

 

Things you can do in order to prevent or manage insomnia

We are strongly against using any sleeping pills and sedatives. As a rule, you must only fall back on medications, if nothing else seems to work in the long run. Remember, treating or curing insomnia takes time and effort, so don’t give up if you fail to see any instant results. Most medications have a damaging effect on the functioning of the brain and this can hamper an individual’s cognitive abilities.

Read Dr. Manvir Bhatia’s excellent book titled The Sleep Solution to tackle your sleep-related problems.

CBT-I

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia enables patients to steer clear of negative thoughts and emotions, inculcate good sleeping habits and work with relaxation techniques.

Meditation and Yoga

Meditation, too, has found to be a proven technique to avoid sleep disturbances. Practising deep meditation and yoga asanas can go a long way toward improving an insomnia-ridden patient’s condition.

Exercise

Indulging in some form of rigorous physical activity (like playing a sport) or daily exercise can also help in speeding up the process of getting back to regularized sleeping patterns.

Here are a few additional things that everyone (no matter what the age) should practice in order to develop and maintain a sound sleep on a daily basis:

  • Make sure you have an environment that is conducive for a good sleep
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal before you go to bed 
  • Drink limited quantities of fluids before sleeping
  • Switch your phone off an hour before you hit the bed 
  • Avoid watching TV or using the laptop before sleeping  
  • Stop or limit the excessive intake of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine 
  • Listen to soothing music or take a warm shower before going to bed  
  • Ensure that you have enough exposure to natural light during the daytime 
  • Avoid daytime naps (or limit them)  
  • Make sure you get ample exercise and physical activity in the morning
  • Minimize exposure to loud noises, uncomfortable temperature and bright light at night 

 

At Seniority, we offer a wide range of products that aid deep sleep:

Sleep Awesome – Natural Oils and Blends

Sleep Awesome

Memory Foam Sleeping Pillow

Sleeping Pillow

Sleep Buddy Memory Foam Pillow

Sleep Buddy Pillow

Aloe Vera Eye Mask

Aloevera Eye Mask

Breathe Easy Eye Mask

Eye Mask

We understand the physical and mental trauma that people go through when dealing with insomnia. These products can contribute towards the betterment of their physical and psychological state, thus helping drive insomnia away.