As a senior citizen, we deal with a common problem — the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. During the day, it seems we fall asleep at the snap of a finger but once night rolls around, insomnia rears its ugly little head and stays here. It becomes a vicious cycle that takes its toll on our mental and physical health.
Not everyone’s sleep issues are the same but there are typically triggers or reasons why we, as seniors, suffer from insomnia. Luckily, there are solutions to treat the reasons that we may suffer from it. Here are several of the reasons why seniors have sleep issues at night as well as a suggestion to eliminate or at least help overcome them.
Sleep Apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that affects a lot of people without being tied to a specific age group. But when it comes to the elderly, a lot of us have it. Sleep apnea is very troublesome and dangerous because it may lead to a lot of health problems. When people suffer from sleep apnea, they stop breathing many times throughout the night – technically for a minimum of 10 seconds and at least 15 times during the night. Sleep apnea can lead to a host of health issues such as high blood pressure, stroke, daytime sleepiness and more. With our generation, most of us already suffer from a lot of these health issues so sleep apnea only makes them worse. The best way to address sleep apnea is to get tested with a sleep specialist who will confirm the condition. There are several surgical and nonsurgical treatment options depending on the type of sleep apnea and the severity including a CPAP that uses forced air to open the airways.
Chronic Medical Conditions. As seniors, we suffer from chronic health conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, gastrointestinal or bladder issues, and heart issues, just to name a few that are often at the root of insomnia. With any of these conditions, there are several options to help with not being able to sleep at night. The best plan is to work with the physician who treats the underlying issues to address the sleeplessness.
Caffeine. One of the most common reasons for sleeplessness with seniors is drinking caffeinated beverages at dinner or later especially if we live in independent living communities that serve tea and coffee at dinner. When dessert comes (and it is always something really good), we love a nice cup of coffee to go with it. This sets in motion a chain reaction of being awake into the night. The best way to alleviate insomnia from this issue is to ask for decaffeinated coffee or an herbal tea that is naturally caffeine-free – many herbal teas have a relaxing effect that helps with sleep.
Medications. Some medications can make it terribly difficult to fall and stay asleep especially with the elderly. Whether taken for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, memory, or even arthritis and joint problems, some prescription medications may be a cause of insomnia. Just like with health conditions, it is important for us to talk with the physicians who prescribe them to find an alternative or other remedy for the insomnia.
Diminished Sleep Hormones. As we age, we experience diminished sleep hormones. This simply means we do not produce as much melatonin as we used to produce. Melatonin is the hormone our bodies make to help us go and stay asleep. The good news is that melatonin is available in a pill form at most any drug store; the bad news is that because so many of us take a slew of medications to treat other physical conditions, melatonin may not be something we can take. Like any other supplement or medication, it is important to speak with our physicians to find out if melatonin is a possibility.
A Burden on the Body
No matter what the reason for the insomnia, this condition takes a huge mental and physical burden on the body. The human body is designed to repair itself while we sleep. When sleep does not come easily, the body cannot do its job which leads to the onset of other health conditions or increased issues with those we already have.
There are naturopathic remedies as well as prescription solutions to help with insomnia. Sipping herbal teas like chamomile and lavender teas can bring great relief (and sleep). Other solutions include making sure we get an adequate amount exercise each day as well as maintain a consistent routine so that our bodies becomes familiar with the time of day and when sleep occurs. Lastly, although it is probably the hardest, avoiding that afternoon nap is probably one of the biggest recommendations to help with insomnia.
If insomnia is causing health conditions to appear, take some time to talk with physicians about it. As seniors, we see enough of them so let them know and help solve the problem.
Discovery Village at Dominion offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 210.840.8000.