Balanced Care

6 Common Sleeping Disorders for Seniors

Millions of Americans suffer from sleep disorders – it’s fairly common for adults to have problems when it comes to falling asleep or staying asleep. However, many of these conditions are very common in elderly people.

Seniors might have problems sleeping due to medical conditions, certain medications from alcohol or caffeine consumption. Often, if a problem becomes chronic, medical intervention becomes necessary. Before you call the doctor, though, it’s important to understand what’s causing your sleep problems. If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, there are several things you can do to improve your sleep quality.

The following are six of the most common sleep disorders Dayton at-home caregivers should watch out for and how you can combat them on your own.

 

1. Circadian Rhythm Malfunctions

The brain naturally produces and releases melatonin and serotonin when darkness falls as a signal to the body that bedtime is near. However, in someone with Circadian Rhythm Disruptions, the brain does not respond to normal daytime and nighttime signals. As such, serotonin levels become insufficient, which results in erratic sleep/wake patterns.

To help with this, we recommend establishing a regular sleep schedule and sticking to it. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends or holidays. By sticking to the same schedule, your body will learn to anticipate sleep and wake times, which will help regulate your circadian rhythm.

 

2. Insomnia

The National Sleep Foundation reports that up to 44 percent of older adults suffer from insomnia. The condition might occur a few nights each week or become chronic after a month’s time. When seniors have insomnia, they are incapable of going to sleep or staying asleep throughout the night.

To help fight insomnia, we recommend taking a warm bath or shower before bed, drinking a cup of chamomile tea, and avoiding eating too much before bed. You can also try reading in bed or listening to soft music as you fall asleep. These things will help you relax, so that your body and mind can fall asleep—and stay asleep—throughout the night.

 

Elderly Sleeping Disorders and How to Combat Them

 

3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Loud snoring is often the first symptom that an adult suffers from sleep apnea. This condition is caused by the relaxation of soft tissues in the mouth, which causes people to stop breathing for 10 to 60 seconds multiple times throughout the night.

One easy trick you can try is sleeping on your side instead of your back. Or, if that doesn’t work, use a nasal strip or mouth guard to keep your airways open while you sleep. If these things don’t help with the snoring, you may want to talk to your doctor about other treatment options.

 

4. Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Also referred to as nocturnal myoclonus, the condition causes involuntary movement of the arms and legs while sleeping. The act can awaken someone throughout the night, which deprives the person of restful sleep. Statistics indicate that up to one third of adults over the age of 60 suffer from this problem.

To help with this disorder, we recommend trying a weighted blanket. Although it won’t get rid of the problem entirely, a weighted blanket can help to reduce symptoms and make it easier for you to sleep at night.

 

Elderly Sleeping Disorders and How to Combat Them

 

5. Restless Leg Syndrome

A burning, cramping or tingling in the legs while trying to fall asleep or while asleep causes the body to react by changing the position of the legs. Constantly shifting position of the legs interferes with restful sleep and causes seniors to be tired throughout the day.

Restless Leg Syndrome is somewhat similar to Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, meaning that it is a movement disorder that causes the legs to move involuntarily during sleep. Although the specifics are different, you can also reduce these symptoms with a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket can help by providing a gentle, soothing pressure on the legs that can help reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. The weight of the blanket also helps to keep your legs in place while you sleep, which means that they won’t be moving around as much and causing you discomfort.

 

6. Abnormal REM Sleep

Under normal circumstances, people fall into REM or rapid eye movement sleep each night. It is this phase of sleep that produces dreams. However, someone who has REM Sleep Behavior Disorder may begin acting out his or her dreams. He or she may become extremely vocal, exhibit active muscle movement, and even rise out of bed.

For those who have an abnormal REM sleep, you may try to utilize a combination of these tips and tricks. This includes having a strict sleeping schedule, creating a calming night routine, and buying some kind of weighted blanket to help you stay still during the night.

You may also want to consider your daytime activities and how they may be affecting your sleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, try to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. You should also avoid eating large meals or exercising right before bed.

 

With help from Home Care Assistance of Dayton, seniors learn to adopt balanced daily and nightly routines that consist of healthy diet, physical exercise, and adequate sleep. Our flexible live-in and hourly caregivers are available 24/7 to accommodate your loved one’s unique needs by helping with everything from medication reminders and personal care to mobility assistance and meal preparation. Contact us at 937-353-7997 today to meet with a trusted Care Manager and customize a care plan for your loved one.

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