Real facts about sleep problems in older people


Last update: Aug 2, 2019

Sleep is essential for emotional, mental and physical health not only for the elderly, but also for caregivers. Although changes in sleep patterns are part of the normal aging process, sleep problems are known to cause increased dementia, falls, and even death in older people.

We have provided an overview of why sleep is essential for the health of the elderly, how conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease can change sleep patterns and what caregivers and the elderly can do to make sure they get enough rest.

How sleep problems increase health risks

We all know a good night’s sleep is the key to feeling good the next day, but sleeping well is also linked to a lower risk of dementia and dementia later in life. Unfortunately, older people are more likely to have health problems that interfere with their sleep, such as insomnia or sleep apnea.

A recent study at the University of California, San Francisco, has shown a clear association between sleep breathing disorders in older women and the risk of cognitive impairment.

“Those who developed disturbances in their circadian rhythm were also at increased risk,” reports NPR. “It was the same with those who woke up all night, turning and turning. “

For older people who experience some form of psychological stress, this connection could be even stronger. Not only does stress affect our sleep patterns, stress itself has also been linked to an increase in risk of dementia. Another study found a link between stress in middle-aged women and the subsequent development of dementia.

Dr Kristine Yaffe, co-author of the UCSF study, advises older people to get screened for sleep problems regularly so that any problems can be detected early and treated before they lead to impairment. cognitive important.

When sleep problems impact Alzheimer’s disease and the sunset

These sleep problems were even more pronounced in older people with Alzheimer’s disease. The brain changes associated with the disease are the underlying cause of problems such as difficulty sleeping, wandering at night and changes in the wake / sleep cycle, as well as evening restlessness, called “sunset. “

Aging sometimes causes a natural disruption of circadian rhythms – a disruption that is often much worse in people with Alzheimer’s disease, reports the National Sleep Foundation. In fact, the Alzheimer Association notes that “in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, people spend about 40% of their time in bed at night awake and a significant portion of their sleep during the day.” Sleep disturbances, in turn, are one of the factors that contribute to sunset behavior.

If your loved one shows increased anger, confusion, or memory loss at the end of the day, there are several coping strategies that caregivers can use to improve sleep in the elderly, including establishing a daytime routine that includes some degree of physical activity.

Why caregivers need sleep too

Study after study, caregivers need a good night’s sleep just as much as their parents or loved ones. According to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving, depression and stress are common among caregivers, and 87% of those surveyed reported problems with energy and sleep.

Many caregivers said their sleep was interrupted during the night, sometimes several times a night, while others said it was the the stress of their responsibilities keeping them awake.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that “sleep problems in caregivers … wreak havoc on the health of the caregiver.” It is therefore particularly important for caregivers to take care of themselves as much as possible, to adopt healthy habits on a daily basis as well as to take longer breaks as needed, such as those offered by respite care.

Are you a caregiver who has treated sleep problems in the elderly? We’d love to hear any tips you’ve found helpful in encouraging your elderly loved ones – and yourself – to sleep better, in the comments below.

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