We all waited anxiously for those hot summer nights, but now that they have arrived, boy is it hard to get a good night’s sleep. We can blame it on the noisy neighbor, the cat that cuddles too close, the spouse that snores, and anything else we can think of. Let’s face it though – we need our sleep to allow our body to rest and restore its energy levels. Just like food and water, adequate sleep is essential to good health and quality of life.
Sleep needs change as people age. Children and adolescents need more sleep than adults, but interestingly enough; older adults needs as much sleep as young adults – 7 to 9 hours per day. Unfortunately the majority of older adults get decidedly less than what they need. Many seniors take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep and then they sleep less deeply and wake more frequently during the night. This lack of restful sleep at night leads to napping during the day and/or earlier retirement in the evening, which means earlier arousal in the morning, which leads to afternoon naps, and so the cycles begins.
Not sleeping well can lead to a number of problems such as a depressed mood, attention and memory difficulties, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls, and the use of more prescription or over the counter sleep aids. Poor sleep is also associated with a poorer quality of life.
People tend to believe that poor sleep is a normal part of aging, but this is a fallacy. If you are having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, consult with your doctor or get referred to a sleep specialist. There is help out there.
There are a number of sleep disorders that affect people at various stages of their lives. Here are some of the most common ones, accompanied by some basic symptoms.
- Insomnia – affects 50 percent of adults 60+ and is characterized by taking a long time to fall asleep, waking frequently during the night, waking early and being unable to go back to sleep, or waking up feeling tired. Short-term insomnia can be caused by a medical/physical condition or change in personal circumstances.
- Sleep disordered breathing – sleep apnea (interruption or obstruction of normal breathing) and snoring (affects 40 percent of all adults).
- Movement disorders – restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder are conditions which cause people to move their limbs when they sleep, leading to poor sleep quality, daytime drowsiness, and disruption of a bed-partner’s rest. They are common conditions in older adults and are characterized by uncomfortable feelings in the legs such as tingling, crawling, pins and needles, jerking and kicking.
- REM (rapid eye movement) sleep behavior disorder – those suffering from a sleep behavior disorder can find their muscles becoming mobilized and the individual often acts out their dreams. This condition not only disrupts the sleep pattern, it can prove dangerous to the individual or their bed partner.
In addition to medical treatments for sleep disorders, there are a number of things you can do as part of your daily routine to induce a good night’s sleep: stick to a schedule, exercise regularly, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and smoking, develop a bedtime routine, use your bedroom only for sleeping and create a safe, comfortable place to sleep, try not to nap during the day, and avoid worrying about your ability to fall asleep.
Information in this column is compiled by Shell-Lee Wert- Executive Director of CCSH, 470 Dundas Street East, Unit 63, Belleville, K8N 1G1. Please visit our website at https://www.ccsh.ca, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our CCSH Facebook page, or call 613-969-0130 or 613-396-6591 for information and assistance. CCSH is a proud United Way member agency. Funding in part from the South East Local Health Integration Network