One of the common misconceptions about seniors is that they require less sleep than other adults do. However, according to WebMD, the amount of sleep humans need stays the same from age 20 on (between seven and nine hours of sleep per night). However, sleep quality can often degrade with age, and without treating it, elders may be aggravating other medical issues.
Sleep apnea occurs when people start and stop breathing during the night. This halting breath can disrupt sleep and put a strain on the heart, according to the Mayo Clinic. Reduced quality of sleep may lead to drowsiness during the day, difficulty focusing, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and a feeling of restlessness. Luckily sleep apnea is treatable when diagnosed. A CPAP machine can help regulate breathing and help elders get a full night of sleep.
Insomnia has many causes, and effective care means diagnosing and treating those causes. Insomnia can be the result of too much caffeine, increased anxiety, a side effect of medication or a reaction to a change in schedule or routine. Too much sleep during the day can also reduce sleep quality at night.
It’s important to find the cause of insomnia rather than treating it with medication. As a caregiver, you can talk to a doctor to identify what medications may be causing difficulty sleeping, reduce your elder’s caffeine intake by drinking white tea or switching to decaf coffee and talking through emotional concerns that may be causing anxiety. Issues may not resolve immediately, but discussing them can help provide a path forward to resolving insomnia.
Seniors are very sensitive to changes in routine, and if something around the home has changed, it can affect sleep. Look into adding blackout curtains to keep the bedroom cool and reduce the amount of light from streetlights or beds. Cell phones and tablets have daylight filters that reduce blue light frequencies that electronics emit. The brain interprets this blue light as daylight, so if devices are used, they can disrupt the circadian rhythm.
Mattresses should be changed every eight year or so as they start to sag and if no mattress protector is on, they can be full of dander. Mattress preferences also change, so your elder may want a softer or firmer mattress to accommodate different physical needs. Sheets that stay cool can also help improve a night’s sleep.
Inactive seniors may find it harder to fall asleep at night since they are not physically exerted. Light exercise approved by a doctor can help them feel tired enough to fall asleep. Additionally, mental activity such as puzzles, games, trivia or reading can help alleviate boredom and let seniors fall asleep easily.
Poor-quality sleep can ruin a day and make your senior unhappy. By discussing problems sleeping, you can ensure their quality of life is constant and restful.