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Understanding Seniors and Sleep

October 15, 2019

Problems with seniors and sleep can be common. Though, that doesn’t mean that a lack of sleep is normal. This just means is may be prevalent. Among seniors, it is even more of an important discussion. Along with the other occurrences of aging, is a reduction in sleep. This can be for many different reasons. Though, it’s important to be able to manage this lack of sleep so that it doesn’t dramatically affect your health.

Sleep Problems Among Seniors

As we age we tend to face more medical issues which inherently affect our sleeping patterns. Some people will have sleeping disorders, while other have outside factors that influence their sleep. Though, in general sleeping disorders are less likely the culprit as opposed to another health condition.

That’s why it is less likely that you will need sleeping medicine, and more likely a behavioral change. Though it is necessary to talk to your doctor about your sleeping patterns as it is a big factor in your overall health. It’s more likely that you are facing some sort of side effect of something else. Usually this is some sort of other medical condition or a change in routine that is affecting your sleep cycle. For example, many people who have problems with their thyroid have trouble sleeping. This is because your thyroid is something that helps regulate hormones throughout your body. And sleep is a process regulated through certain hormones being released into your body.

If you have an over active or under active thyroid you will potentially face problems with your sleep. It’s a good example of why you should look into how your sleeping problems may be an indicator of some other underlying issue. Many people won’t look into it further, but it is necessary.

What Are the Common Types of Sleep Disorders Among Seniors

Insomnia- This is something that will affect almost all of us at some point of another. But when it becomes chronic it can become an issue. It simply means you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep. It can be diagnosed by your doctor. Though many times there is another root cause to it.

Sleep Apnea- This can be much more serious, and can affect many more seniors. It means you have moments in your sleep where your breathing is broken up. It can even mean you stop breathing at points in time during sleep. This is why it can be a more serious condition. And it’s clear that an inability to breath or moments can cause you to wake up or have fragmented sleep.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder- With this disorder your limbs have involuntary movement that may cause you to wake more often. You generally won’t know on your own that it is happening. But you will most likely wake up and find yourself quite tired.

Circadian Rhythm Disorders- There are multiple types and it has to do with the internal cycles of your body being off.

Tips for Better Sleep in Your Senior Years

Get Out and Exercise

Exercise will not just tire you out so that you will want to sleep better. IT has been found that exercise will actually help you with longer and deeper sleep. Make sure you don’t exercise right before going to sleep, though. This can actually make you stay awake for longer.

Get Into a Routine

If you are able to go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day, you set yourself up for sleep success. Once your body gets set into this routine you will naturally become tired and want to wake at those times that your body gets used to. Establishing good sleeping habits is a great way to create good sleep patterns.

Put Smartphones and Devices Away

The light from phones and computers will often keep us up awake longer than we want to be. This is because of the blue light emitted from phones. This blue light keeps your body from properly releasing a hormone that helps regulate your internal clock for your sleeping patterns.

Don’t Have Caffeine Before Bed

Caffeine is another one of those things that will keep you awake. So naturally, you don’t want to have any before bed, and especially if you have any problems falling asleep already.

Use Technology in the Right Way

Many people have apps in their phones or smartwatches that help them monitor their sleeping patterns. If you do you can take a look at days where your sleep wasn’t as good. Then you can think about all the things you did throughout the day, and you can eventually find a pattern that mat be causing you sleep deprivation.

Lower Stress

Stress affects many aspects of our health and lives. It’s no secret that having to manage too much stress will affect our sleeping patterns. Find ways to manage your daily stress levels. This can include through daily walks, meditation, or anything you find relaxing.

What is Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a combination of factors, like the ones mentioned above, that contribute to a good night’s sleep. The word encompasses all the things that you do that will either help or hinder your sleep.

Why Seniors and Sleep Matter

Restless nights of sleep turn into sleep deprivation. And sleep deprivation has been linked to things such as high blood pressure. In our senior years it’s important to upkeep our health. Because there are so many things that are out of our control, its important to be able to take control of sleep. When it’s lacking there is often a root cause that you can trace and fix all on your own. And even if you have difficulty doing so, a doctor can help you figure out the problem.

Again remind yourself and other senior loved ones that trouble sleeping isn’t a normal part of aging. It happens to so many people, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessary to find the cause and fix it. With our ability to diagnose and treat many different ailments, it is your responsibility to take care of your health by managing your sleep.

Long term sleep problems can lead to health problems that you want to avoid in your senior years.

Your Health and Sleep

Many people don’t realize the affect that sleep has on their immunity. There are some proteins made during sleep that help with immunity and fight inflammation of the body. The less sleep you have the less your body is able to produce. Sleep is also when your body repairs cell damage. This can mean your body will take an overall hit to health if it can’t continue to develop these proteins as a sufficient rate during sleep.

Try and get a recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night. And that doesn’t mean lying in bed for that amount of time. Make sure that that is the amount of time you are actually asleep. If you find that you are often losing sleep during the night try and take naps throughout the day. While you won’t necessarily be able to make up for the sleep lost, naps can still help. In the end sleep is crucial to our immunity and overall health. So finding ways to allow your body that crucial rest is necessary.

You’ll also find that even if you do end up sick with a cold of flu, your body is able to recover much fast if you take the time to make sure you have meaningful sleep. Sleep is crucial in allowing your body to heal and recover from illness as well as preventing sickness from taking over. In fact, neglecting sleep can mean you will face increased risk or heart disease, diabetes, and overall weight problems.

The Different Types of Sleep

There are two different types of sleep called REM(Rapid Eye Movement) and Non-REM. Non-REM accounts for three of the four stages of sleep, while REM accounts for the very last stage of sleep. Your REM sleep generally happens about 90 minutes after falling asleep. It is this stage of sleep where you retain what you learned throughout the day and when you dream. This is the type of sleep that is more generally associate with deep sleep. Older people tend to get less REM sleep.

Conclusion

Seniors and sleep are important points of discussion in a world of healthful senior discussion. Getting a good night’s rest is an important step to a good overall wellbeing. Because sleep is so important, it’s important to discuss your sleep, or lack thereof with your doctor. Don’t take problems with your sleep to be a simple and common occurrence. Often times is can help us figure out underlying health conditions. And prolonged and chronic lack of sleep will eventually affect your day to day life.

If you want to find out more about Homecare Powered by AUAF and our mission, contact us or give us a call at 773.274.9262.

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