Geriatric Insomnia: Aging and Sleep Problems

Getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night is essential to a healthy body and mind. However, as aging occurs, it can be harder to fall or stay asleep. This may be partly due to natural biological changes in the body’s circadian rhythms or a natural 24 hour clock, making the elderly fall asleep early at night and wake up earlier in the morning. However, there may be other underlying causes that could be disrupting what should be a good night’s sleep such as lifestyle habits or medical conditions.

It is important to address sleeplessness in seniors as soon as possible. Insomnia has a number of debilitating effects on how a person functions and can increase susceptibility to other illnesses and medical conditions.  Some symptoms of insomnia to be aware of in the elderly are:

  • Complaining of being up awake all night
  • Accidents
  • Irritability
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Night falls

Sometimes insomnia is caused by underlying illnesses such as depression, dementia, Parkinson’s, gastrointestinal issues or respiratory problems like sleep apnea. It is important for any senior suffering from insomnia to have a full examination by a doctor. Proper treatment of the medical problem can alleviate or eliminate insomnia for the senior.

If the senior is otherwise healthy, but still having trouble sleeping, modifying daily habits can help relieve insomnia. To start, help the senior develop a regular daily schedule that encourages waking up and going to bed at the same time every day and discourage napping. Caffeine and alcohol intake should be limited to no closer than three hours before bedtime. A calming bedtime routine such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or listening to soothing music can also help promote a good night’s sleep. If after making lifestyle changes, the senior still suffers from insomnia the senior’s physician may recommend a prescription sleep aid. Usage of all sleep aids should be closely monitored by the senior’s physician as there is a chance that dependency can become a concern and contribute to health problems including balance problems and/or confusion.

Sleep is essential for a healthy body and mind. Addressing geriatric insomnia is important to ensuring well-being during the aging years. If you or an elderly loved one is suffering from sleeplessness, consult a doctor to help find the best solution to help reduce or relieve your insomnia. Interested in reading more geriatric insomnia tips? Contact one of our senior care consultants today.