Proper sleep vitally important to seniors as patterns change
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By Julie Ann Anderson  May 2, 2014 12:00 am

Aging parents and others typically find their sleep patterns change as they grow older. This is typical; what is not typical are sleep disturbances that prevent people from getting the proper amount or quality of sleep.


Why does sleep change?

One big reason sleep patterns change as we age is because the presence of growth hormones influences sleep. Those hormone levels naturally drop as we age, and our bodies produce less melatonin, making for somewhat more fragmented sleep. Also, our natural rhythms change, making us more inclined to want to sleep earlier, and therefore wake earlier as well.


Common reasons for sleep 

problems in aging parents?

Typical reasons that aging parents and others experience unusual sleep disturbances include:

• Medications: Aging parents tend to need more medications than younger adults. Medications can have many different effects on people, and sleeplessness is associated with many drugs.


• Stress: This is a contributing factor to sleeplessness regardless of a person’s age.


• Depression: Some people find depression makes them sleep more; others find it causes them to sleep less. Yet, even those who sleep more as a result of depression tend to find sleep less restful and refreshing than normal sleep.


• Pain: Even a moderate level of pain can impede good sleep or cause middle-of-the-night wakefulness.


• Urination: Many seniors find that they need to urinate frequently during the night and experience difficulty returning to sleep afterwards.


• Sedentary lifestyles: Sitting all day and not getting sufficient exercise can make nighttime sleep difficult.


• Sleep disorders: Sleep apnea, snoring, restless leg syndrome and other sleep-related disorders can impact quantity and quality of sleep.


Addressing the issues above can make a big difference in one’s sleep quality. For example, if medications seem to be causing sleep issues, consult with a doctor to see whether there are alternatives that might not have the same side effects. Working with a professional to relieve stress or depression may help. Increasing physical activity in an appropriate amount determined by your doctor is also important.

Some issues, such as reducing the need to urinate, may be challenging. Consult a doctor to see what options are available; some seniors find that developing a sleep-inducing routine for post-urination periods can be helpful.

Aging parents need and deserve proper sleep. Sleep not only affects mood and outlook but can have positive impacts on physical health as well.


Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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