Sleep disorders in the elderly involve any disruptive pattern of sleep such as problems with falling or staying asleep, excessive sleep, or abnormal behaviors associated with sleep.
Sleeping problems are common in the elderly. In general, older people require less sleep, and their sleep is less deep than that experienced by the young. Some causes or contributors to sleep disturbances in older adults include:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam to rule out medical causes. Diagnosis is also based on the patient's history of sleep disturbances and other contributing factors.
The relief of chronic pain and control of underlying medical conditions such as frequent urination may improve sleep in some people. Effective treatment of depression can also improve sleep.
Sleep-promoting interventions such as a quiet sleep environment and a glass of warm milk before bed may improve the symptoms. Other ways to promote sleep include following a healthy lifestyle and the following steps:
If you can't fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet activity such as reading or listening to music.
The use of sleeping pills to promote sleep on a long-term basis should be avoided, if possible. They can lead to dependence and worsening sleep problems over time if not used correctly.
WARNING: The FDA has asked manufacturers of sedative-hypnotic sleep medicines to put stronger warning labels on their products so that consumers are more aware of the potential risks. Possible risks while taking such medicines include severe allergic reactions and dangerous sleep-related behaviors, including sleep-driving. Ask your doctor about these risks.
Most people see improvement in sleep with treatment or interventions. However, others may continue to have persistent sleep disruptions.
A complication is alcohol use or drug abuse with the intent of improving sleep.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if a lack of sleep or too much sleep is interfering with daily living.
Eliminating as many causes of sleep disruption as possible and encouraging regular exercise may help control sleep problems.