Sleep disorders for Seniors

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Beautiful elderly woman lying in the bed

Beautiful elderly woman lying in the bed

Sleep disorders are a significant source of concern, especially with our seniors.

Sleeping patterns can often change as we grow older but sleep disorders have been implicated with side effects such as dementia, cognitive impairment and falls. Below you will find an overview of why sleep is critical for senior and caregiver health, how conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease can change sleep patterns and what caregivers can do to make sure they get enough rest.

We all know a good night’s sleep is the key to feeling energetic and clear-headed the next day. Unfortunately, older adults are more likely to have sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea. For seniors who are under psychological stress, this link may be even stronger. Not only does stress affect our sleeping habits, stress itself has been associated with dementia. It is recommended  to be regularly screened for sleep problems so that any issues may be caught early and treated before there is a significant impairment.

Sleep disorders are even more of an issue with Alzheimer’s patients. Brain changes associated with the disease are the underlying cause of issues such as difficulty sleeping, wandering, napping during day time hours and late afternoon to early evening agitation known as “Sundowning“.

Aging can sometimes cause a natural disruption of our daily cycles of waking up, sleeping, body temperature and metabolism. This disruption is significantly worse in Alzheimer’s patients.

Mood swings, confusion, memory loss or even anger can be reduced with a few routine adjustments. Establishing physical activity during the daytime hours may help reduce the risk of Sundowning.

Caregivers are also at risk without enough sleep. Energy is a necessity when keeping up with the needs of your loved ones. With the responsibilities of caring for a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s and sleep deprivation, this could cause the caregiver to become stressed often resulting in the loved one being admitted into a long term care facility. This can also lead to negative health issues in the caregiver. Adopt healthy day-to-day habits. Take longer breaks as needed. Caregivers are also encouraged to turn to respite care to help with their loved ones.

Sleep disorders need immediate attention by your physician. Not allowing your body to rest will lead to long-term negative affects.