4 Sleep Disorders and Sleep Hygiene Tips To Sleep Better

By on October 8, 2018
4 Sleep Disorders & Sleep Hygiene Tips for Seniors

Life transforms as we age, including how our sleep patterns change affecting overall health and quality of life. The National Sleep Foundation says these changes are identified as “sleep architecture,” which can cause a variety of sleep problems.

Fragmented (frequent awakenings) sleep, longer periods in the lighter sleep stages and overall, ongoing sleep deprivation can lead to increased daytime fatigue, an inability to perform daily activities, lack of energy and mental health issues. Even more concerning, sleep deprivation increases risks for serious consequences like cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimers, obesity and heart disease.

If you find that you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, the following sleep conditions may be affecting the deterioration of efficient, restful sleep. 

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The study “Normal and Abnormal Sleep in Elderly,” by Jana R. Cooke, MD, and Sonia Acoli-Israel, PhD, addresses insomnia (or Sleep-Onset Latency) to be the most common sleep disturbance among seniors. Many factors can induce insomnia including psychiatric disorders, mental conditions and medication, substance abuse, the environment, lifestyle changes and stress. 

The second category of insomnia is sleep maintenance, which is having trouble staying asleep throughout the night. Over time, sleeplessness goes hand in hand with consistent exhaustion and drowsiness, impaired memory and poor concentration, and depression; these effects also negatively impact caregivers and loved ones, A Place for Mom says.

Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome

A shift of the sleep-wake cycle affects an older adult’s ability to maintain a routine sleeping schedule. Also called Advance Sleep Phase Syndrome due to circadian rhythm changes, the elderly feel tired earlier and earlier in the evening, according to Psychiatric Times. As a result, individuals have early morning awakenings, which affect daytime structure with irregular napping and other issues like “sundowning” (agitation during late afternoons and early evenings), the National Center for Biotechnology Information reports.

Sleep Apnea

Older adults who loudly snore is a sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Breathing stops during sleep apnea (sometimes for as long as a minute in severe cases) and oxygen in the blood lowers. Cooke and Sonia Acoli-Israe’s study states that approximately 50 percent of those with habitual snoring are affected by sleep-disordered breathing, showing the close relation between the two. During Early Daytime Sleepiness, which is an outcome of disordered sleeping, older adults can intentionally (and even dangerously) fall asleep during daily activities like driving.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Seniors who experience an uncontrollable urge to move before and during sleep mostly likely have Restless Leg Syndrome, which the National Sleep Foundation defines as neurological movement disorder. It’s uncomfortable and unpleasant due to a tingling  or “pins and needles” sensation. This motor restlessness initiates insomnia, sleep latency and disrupted rest. Aside from medication, treatments include lifestyle changes (like exercise), eliminating substances (like caffeine and alcohol), leg massages, hot baths, ice packs/heating pads, as well as overall improved sleeping patterns.

Tips to Improve Sleep

These sleep hygiene tips can help create healthier restfulness:

  • Follow a consistent bedtime and wake time 
  • Create a regular, relaxing routine before bedtime 
  • Restrict napping
  • Exercise regularly and eating a healthy diet
  • Use heated blankets for coping with anxiety and stress or poor blood circulation
  • Use supportive pillows and mattress to help prevent back or neck pain
  • Spend time outside and increase light exposure 
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol 
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment (e.g., cool, dark and quiet) used only for rest (e.g., free of TV and other electronics)

Foremost, seniors with sleeping deprivation should consult their doctor for a proper diagnosis; however, it’s important to be aware of sleep disorders and not ignore the symptoms, as inefficient sleep can trigger more or indicate serious health issues.


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4 Sleep Disorders and Sleep Hygiene Tips To Sleep Better