Sleep disorders in seniors are more than just a nuisance. The results of a recent study (published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke) show that a decrease in the amount or quality of sleep that a senior enjoys can dramatically increase their risk of hardening of the arteries in the brain, This, in turn, can lead to stroke.
The study examined the cases of over 300 patients who lived to the age of 90 and who had undergone at least a full week-long sleep study. When researchers correlated the data they found that individuals with poor sleep patterns (with or without a diagnosed sleep disorders in seniors studied) were much more likely to have suffered at least one stroke than those who enjoyed normal sleep patterns.
In fact, 61% of those with poor sleep patterns had moderate to severe damage to the blood vessels in the brain. That made the at risk group 21% more likely to have blood vessel damage than those who regularly slept through the night.
Sleep Disorders in Seniors Aren’t “Part of Getting Older”
Many of us believe that as we age less sleep is normal. We’ve all heard stories from older individuals who say they only sleep a few hours per night and get by fine the next day. However, no matter what your aging loved one says, their body still needs as much sleep as it did when they were in their 20s.
Sleep allows the body to rest and reset. It’s during our sleeping hours when the majority of the healing process occurs and sleep is essential for both mental and physical health. People who suffer sleep deprivation are at much higher risk for:
High Blood Pressure
Memory and Cognitive Impairment
Obesity (and all the health issues associated with it)
And that risk is increased regardless of age.
What Causes Sleep Disorders in Seniors?
Dr. Jack Gardner, a neurologist and certified sleep medicine specialist, says that “insomnia is more common for seniors, partly because of health issues, partly because of the anxiety and the concerns of aging, and sometimes because of medication.”
Some of these health concerns include:
Restless Leg Syndrome
Bladder/Kidney Malfunction (Frequent Urination)
Sleep Phase Syndrome can also play a part in keeping seniors from sleep. As we age our body’s internal clock actually adjusts to an earlier sleep/wake pattern but if seniors don’t heed that call to hit the sack it can result in sleep deprivation.
Tips for Better Sleep
There are a number of things seniors can do to maximize the amount and effectiveness of their sleep sessions.
Remove Light Sources
Studies have found that light sources—especially those from electronic devices which produce blue light—can dramatically decrease the duration and effectiveness of sleep. Remove those distractions from the bedroom.
Prepare for Sleep
Turning sleep into a daily routine is the easiest way to ensure seniors get the rest they need. This entails going to bed and waking at the same time every day but also includes sufficient “wind down” time at the end of the day so their body is ready for sleep.
Get Some Sun
Sunlight (real or artificial) plays an essential role in the timing of our internal clock. Staying indoors or keeping the curtains closed can interfere with that natural cycle and throw seniors off their normal sleep pattern.
Address Health Issues
If health issues like sleep apnea, arthritis pain, or Restless Leg Syndrome are keeping your senior awake, convince them to speak with their health care professional about treatments like CPAP machines and medications.
Home Care Services in Texas
Second Family Home Care offers professional non-medical in-home care for seniors throughout Texas. Our friendly and experienced care providers can offer you and your loved ones as much or as little help as needed to let seniors age in place for as long as they’re able. Contact us today or call (972) 347-0700 to schedule a consultation.