Sleep disorders (or sleep-wake disorders) involve problems with the quality, timing, sleep latency, amount, and sleep stage, which result in daytime distress and impairment in functioning. (psychiatry.org)
To stay physically and mentally healthy, we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep schedules may differ depending on your work timings and shift changes. According to the National Institute On Aging, sleep patterns change as we age, especially over 60. For those still working, this presents sleep difficulties. Also, due to changes in our body and the prescription drug we take, we may face sleep disruption or fragmented sleep. Body function decreases with less sleep duration. You have a diminished or reduced ability to accomplish daytime activities.
Some changes are regular, though. As people age, we need less sleep. Or people find themselves getting to bed earlier than usual but waking earlier, too, and a decline in the amount of deep sleep. Other medical conditions such as incontinence, frequent urination, arthritis, and digestive issues will affect a good night’s sleep. It’s best to consult a doctor when you feel you aren’t getting enough sleep or notice changes in your function, memory, coordination, or balance. Lack of sleep manifests itself differently in different people. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the general public and seniors. Sleep quality declines with age and 30 percent of the elderly patients may suffer from chronic insomnia.
Poor sleep health – especially in adults – is linked to a higher risk for heart disease, falls, brain function, depression, and memory issues. Brain chemicals, such as serotonin, become imbalanced and sleep problems result. Sleep loss has a detrimental effect on organ function, too. Lack of restful sleep is not to be taken lightly. Patients with moderate cognitive impairment (MCI) exhibit cognitive deterioration that lies somewhere between normal aging and dementia. As we become older, our sleep architecture changes as well. Sleep efficiency has been proven to be lower in the elderly in most research and physical exams.
Who is Affected?
An epidemiologic study depicts that sleep disorders afflict about 70 million Americans, and sleep complaints rise. Nearly 75% of adults report having sleep disorder symptoms at least 2-3 nights per week. The first step to turning this nightmare around is consulting a sleep specialist. The specialist will evaluate your disturbed sleep pattern to detect what type of sleep disorder you may have. They will also tell you what to look for: nighttime awakenings, sleep apnea, less time in deeper stages of sleep, REM sleep behavior disorder, or restless leg syndrome, where the patient faces an urge to move a lot before sleep onset, to name a few. Non-REM sleep is usually deepest in the early hours of the night. Seniors are more likely to have medical and psychological illnesses that show insomnia and other sleep disorders, including sleep-disordered breathing or restless leg syndrome. High blood pressure medications, gastroesophageal reflux disease medications, and rheumatoid arthritis medications are just a few of the medications that can disrupt your sleep cycle and lead to insufficient sleep. Numerous sleep aids have negative side effects and are not recommended for long-term use. Neurodegenerative disorders, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, can disturb the sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm. Insomnia can arise or be linked to medical or psychiatric conditions.
What To Do?
Sleep specialists might recommend lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise, a light snack like low-sugar cereal or warm milk, quiet activity before bed, avoiding caffeine, and improving the sleep environment because caffeine can reduce sleep time by delaying the circadian rhythm. If anxiety is the issue, medication can help. Prescribing sleep medications can help, but this is the last choice. A sleep diary can be used to evaluate sleep cycle and sleep hours and diagnose sleep issues. Sleep disturbances such as restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder can be treated with low doses of anti-parkinsonian medicines and other medications. Cognitive-behavioral therapies for diseases work best, especially for insomnia bed partners, if sleep quality is the issue. In addition, good sleep habits can help with insomnia. Alcohol and smoking should be avoided for at least 4 hours before bedtime and at night. In older persons, enhancing sleep hygiene seems very helpful and low-risk.
Sleep apnea. The sleep specialist might prescribe a constant positive airway pressure (CPAP) breathing device or a mouthpiece that adjusts the jaw position. Sleep-Related Breathing Problems or Sleep-related breathing disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea, are quite common among the elderly. It might also be a side effect of cardiovascular disease and pulmonary disease medications. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most frequent type and is characterized by disruption of breathing during sleep. Upon physical examination, it reveals blockage in the breathing airways. Sometimes surgery is necessary. Sleep apnea also leads to daytime sleepiness.
Restless legs syndrome. We all shift positions occasionally during the night. But abnormal movements during sleep may deprive you of rest considerably. Treatments might include lifestyle changes, addressing underlying health conditions, or medication. The most commonly observed sign of this syndrome is kicking the legs during sleep.
Dementia-related sleep problems. The brain changes of Alzheimer’s disease disrupt the body’s natural 24-hour sleep and wake cycle. Dementia experts may suggest changing your nighttime routine to get a good night’s sleep Perhaps the cause might be a urinary tract infection. Medications can often help to provide quality sleep.
Daytime napping. Napping or light sleep is great if you feel you need it, but if it’s affecting nighttime sleep, you should discuss it with the doctor. At least three times per week, sleep disturbance and related daytime symptoms occur.
Second-hand sleep problems. When a person has a sleep disorder, this can affect their bedpartner in a different room can help. But family caregivers are also affected because they need to help their loved ones at night.
Since caregivers lack sleep, having home care for them allows them to sleep well to be effective caregivers when needed. Regardless of the cause of sleep problems, hiring a professional caregiver might be the best medicine for you.
Sleep study has proven that a relaxing bedtime routine or warm bath before bed can do wonders for your sleep quality and improve primary sleep disorders. Doctors might also suggest a restriction on time in bed to overcome poor sleep habits. Daytime physical activities like exercise also help improve poor sleep quality.