5 min read

Seniors' Sleep Problems: Causes and Solutions

As we age, we commonly notice changes in our daily habits. Often, this includes slumber. Have you ever wondered why some seniors seem to sleep more than younger adults? Or why other seniors seem to need less?  Let's explore this question and learn more about sleep patterns in older individuals. Not all people have the same issues as they age.

Why Do Some Seniors Sleep So Much?

Seniors may sleep more than younger adults for several reasons. One reason is that as we age, our bodies may need more rest to recover from daily activities.

Older adults often have more free time and fewer responsibilities, allowing them to indulge in more extended periods of sleep. They may choose to nap out of boredom or loneliness. They may live with chronic illness with symptoms that include fatigue. There are many different reasons an older person may be in bed a lot of the time.

Another factor is lifestyle changes. If a person quits drinking or using substances, they may have disruptions for a while as their body adjusts. Medication from a doctor can also have side effects.

Seniors may experience more frequent awakenings at night, leading to shorter, fragmented rest. These changes can result in increased daytime fatigue and the need for naps to compensate for lost rest.

Insomnia As We Age and Its Causes

While some seniors may get more rest, others may struggle with insomnia and have trouble getting rest. Insomnia can have various causes, including:

  • Medical Conditions: Chronic pain from health conditions like arthritis or respiratory issues like sleep apnea can disrupt nighttime rest.
  • Medications: Some medications commonly prescribed to seniors can interfere with sleep patterns.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Life changes, including retirement or the loss of a loved one, can contribute to feelings of anxiety or depression, making it difficult to get to bed at night.
  • Poor Sleep Habits: Irregular schedules, consuming caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime, and screen time before bed can all disrupt rest.

What Sleep Changes Can Take Place As We Age?

Some sleep changes take place, and they are not due to disease or disorder.

According to the NIH, age-related changes in sleep are common in middle age and beyond, especially during menopause. One typical pattern includes going to bed far earlier than others and waking earlier. This is called advanced sleep timing. Some people also have shorter sleep duration. This may cause them to be tired during the day. They may even take daytime naps. They may also spend more time awake at night.

Hormones can also play a role in sleep. Women who are entering menopause often have sleep changes as well as mood changes. Insomnia is a common symptom.

These changes can affect the quality of a person's rest cycle and leave them tired during the day.

How Much Sleep Do Older People Need?

As people get older, their patterns can change. At the same time, the amount needed varies from person to person. Generally, older adults still need about 7 to 9 hours of rest each night, just like younger adults.

Some older folks may need slightly less rest as they age. This is normal, but older adults must aim for enough to feel refreshed and alert during the day.

Factors like health conditions, medications, and changes in daily routines can affect sleep quality and duration for older adults. Insomnia, apnea, and restless leg syndrome can make getting a good night's rest harder.

Older adults should discuss concerns with their doctor, as they may be able to provide helpful advice or recommend treatments to improve sleep quality.

A consistent schedule, a relaxing bedtime routine, and ensuring the environment is comfortable can help older adults get needed rest.

Mental Health and Sleep in Older Adults

Mental health conditions can masquerade as sleeping issues or even cause them in older adults. Conditions like depression and anxiety are known to impact sleep quality and duration.

Older adults may have difficulty nodding off or waking up frequently at night. Some will have a problem with waking up too early. All can be signs of both mental health issues and sleep disturbances.

Depression, for example, can lead to insomnia or oversleeping. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness associated with depression can disrupt the normal resting cycle. Anxiety, on the other hand, can cause racing thoughts and worry that makes it hard to relax and fall asleep, leading to insomnia.

Chronic stress, which often accompanies mental health conditions, can also contribute to nighttime problems for older adults. Stress hormones can interfere with the body's ability to relax and fall asleep, resulting in disturbances.

Finally, poor rest can exacerbate mental health issues in older adults, creating a vicious cycle. Fatigue can worsen depression and anxiety. It's essential for older adults experiencing issues to address both their habits and their mental health concerns.

Speaking to a doctor who can provide appropriate treatment for disturbances and mental health conditions is crucial for the overall well-being of older adults.

How to Relax and Get Quality Rest

If dreamtime is elusive, relaxation techniques can help seniors begin getting to sleep. There are also many holistic methods to unwind and enhance your rest at night:

  • Mindfulness Meditation: Engage in mindfulness meditation before bedtime to calm the mind and promote relaxation. Focus on breathing and letting go of any racing thoughts.
  • Herbal Tea: Sip a cup of chamomile or valerian root tea to soothe the nerves and prepare your body for rest.
  • Gentle Stretching: Practice gentle stretching or restorative yoga poses to release tension from muscles and promote relaxation throughout the body.
  • Warm Bath: Take a warm bath infused with Epsom salts or essential oils to relax muscles and create a calming bedtime ritual.
  • Journaling: Spend time journaling before bed to reflect on the day, jot down any worries, or express gratitude. This can help clear the mind and promote a sense of peace.
  • Nature Sounds: Listen to recordings of nature sounds, such as gentle rain or ocean waves, to create a tranquil environment conducive to rest.
  • Reading: Escape into a good book or listen to an audiobook with a soothing voice to distract the mind from stressors and promote relaxation.
  • Limit Screen Time: Avoid screens at least an hour before bed; the blue light emitted can disrupt the body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Instead, engage in calming activities that don't involve screens.

Incorporating these holistic practices into your evening routine can help you unwind, relax, and prepare the body and mind for a restful night.

Screening for Sleep Issues in Seniors

Older adults experiencing insomnia and other issues must be discussed with a healthcare provider. In addition to addressing potential underlying medical conditions, doctors may screen for mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.

Some people may need to undergo evaluations for disorders like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or periodic limb movement disorder. These conditions can significantly affect sleep and overall well-being if left untreated.

Having a Fulfilling Life at Senior Living

We welcome you if you or somebody you love is looking for a safe community to call home in their golden years. We offer medication management, cleaning, laundry services, and incontinent services when needed. Learn more about how you can join our community by calling us at 442-232-2824 today! We can schedule a tour and explain our amenities and services to you fully.

Share This Post
Read Full Bio
Mark Gladden
Driven by a desire to enable seniors to age gracefully in a place they can call home, Mark founded Present Moments Senior Living. From programming activities to hiring capable staff to overseeing day-to-day operations, Mark strives to make Present Moments a nurturing environment where residents can live meaningfully.