Insomnia in Seniors

We have all experienced trouble falling asleep, we’ve all looked at the clock watching the minutes tick by wondering why we are still awake. For some people this is a nightly routine thanks to insomnia, a disorder that makes it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Many people suffer from insomnia and have to manage its side effects including lack of energy, irritability and fatigue. These become even more concerning when talking about a senior citizen. If you believe your elderly loved one is struggling with insomnia its important to understand what it is, why and what steps you can take to treat and prevent it. 

Why is Insomnia More Worrying in Seniors?

Insomnia effects seniors differently than the rest of the population. Insomnia can cause them to be more accident prone, potentially leading to falls. It may also cause diabetes, heart disease, depression and poor cognitive skills. 

What Causes Insomnia in Seniors?

Insomnia can be caused or worsened by many factors. These include medications, lifestyle habits such as frequent naps, other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, too much caffeine, mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, smoking, other health condition and changes in sleep pattern due to age.

How Can it Be Managed? 

There is plenty you can do to combat insomnia and increase the likelihood of a good nights sleep. The most obvious, but difficult, one being to establish a sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Temperature control is also important, most people have trouble falling asleep if it’s too hot or cold. Set the temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As for what you should do before bed try exercising earlier on in the day, at least four hours before bed and right before you go to lay down try a taking a warm bath. If you’ve been in bed for 30 minutes and are still wide awake go into another room and do a relaxing activity like reading or listening to music. It’s important that you get out of bed and do this since it reinforces the idea in your head that your bed is for sleeping. 

What Shouldn’t You do When Treating Insomnia?  

There are a few things that can make insomnia worse, here’s what to avoid. Don’t drink alcohol,  eat heavy meals  or consume caffeine three hours before bed, don’t use your cellphone or watch TV 30 minutes before bed and try not to nap during the day. 

What if None if This Helps? 

If your loved one is still suffering from insomnia it may be time to reach out to a doctor. A doctor will be able to identify what exactly is causing it and could prescribe specific medication to treat it. Prescription sleep medications can have negative side effects such as drowsiness which makes seniors more accident prone, because of this these medicines aren’t recommended for long term use. If you’re worried about side effects be sure to discuss them with your doctor. Over the counter medications are another  option. However these also have side effects including dry mouth, constipation and drowsiness.  Remember, everybody is different, your loved ones treatment should be personalized. Remember every one needs sleep, it’s one of the most important parts of our health and should be taken seriously.