Understanding Sleep Patterns, Sleep Disorders and Old Age
Older people need about an hour less sleep per night, although they often wake up more often than a younger person. Indeed, the elderly often suffer from illnesses or other health complications that make it difficult to sleep. Sleep disorders such as back pain, breathing problems and frequent use of the toilet at night are some of the reasons that older people have trouble sleeping.
It is estimated that 50% of people over the age of 65 and living in community housing suffer more from the effects of sleep disorders and unfortunately older people have more difficulty coping with sleep disorders than younger people.
Another reason for sleep disturbances could be rapid eye movement (REM) in older people, presumably there are fewer hormones circulating. They often take longer to fall asleep (increased sleep latency) and spend less time in deeper sleep, which is an important process in body repair.
There is often a shift in the biological clock, causing older people to go to bed earlier at night and wake up very early in the morning. This often leads to daytime naps, which continue to disrupt the sleep cycle. For an older person with Alzheimer’s disease, this could mean difficulty distinguishing between night and day, leading to more sleep problems.
Those with sleep problems are often reluctant to talk to family members or their doctor, as they may think it is because of their age or because they don’t want to be a nuisance. However, sleep problems can occur due to medication side effects and it is necessary to adjust the patient’s medication dose, or even prescribe alternative medicine.
Light exercise, such as a walk or even wheelchair aerobics for people with reduced mobility, can help seniors get tired before bedtime. Mental stimulation is also important for improving sleep quality. Encouraging elderly relatives and neighbors to visit social clubs and meet friends ensures that they receive mental and social stimulation. It’s also important for seniors to talk about sleep deprivation with medical professionals, because chances are their lack of sleep is a medical condition, not a sign of aging.
How can I know my sleep pattern?
If you need more information about your sleep, your sleeping habits and maybe you are worried about your health. There are various sleep monitoring products to help you better understand your sleep patterns and measure your sleep cycle.