Although sleep disorders are common, spending long nights counting sheep is not a natural part of aging. Trouble sleeping could be due to other underlying conditions, and treatment can help improve symptoms. Before you sit through another long night of informercials, here are five health conditions that can cause sleep disruptions for seniors.
Older adults suffering from depression are more likely to experience disrupted sleep than other adults. About 14 percent of elderly individuals have depression, and 60 percent of people with depression report sleep problems. The sleep changes that a depressed person experiences are similar to those that naturally occur with aging, so it may be difficult to identify depression as the cause. However, these changes are generally more severe for people with depression. Such changes include getting less sleep, sleeping more lightly, and waking up more at night.
“Having trouble sleeping is a common complaint for people with depression, and poor sleep can worsen symptoms of depression,” says Eric VanWalleghem, administrator at Siena Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “It is important to not ignore your disrupted sleep and get treatment for the underlying condition that may be causing it.”
Sleep apnea is common among seniors and can be a big contributor to sleep problems. The most common kind of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea and can be caused by the upper airway collapsing during sleep. The airways of elderly individuals can collapse easier than those of younger people, so obstructive sleep apnea is especially prevalent among the elderly.
People with Alzheimer’s and dementia often have trouble sleeping, though experts do not know all the reasons why. Some people with dementia may experience sundowning, which can cause anxiety in the evening and affect sleep. Dementia may also cause disruption to the internal body clock and make it hard to stay awake during the day or sleep well at night.
Parkinson’s Disease often causes a disruption in sleep, including waking up frequently during the night and having poor quality sleep. Several symptoms can contribute to poor sleep for people with Parkinson’s Disease. The disease can cause frequent nighttime urination, which results in waking up several times during the night. Some people may also have thrashing movements during sleep, along with vivid dreams or even hallucinations.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease affects people of all ages and occurs when stomach contents reflux back up to into the esophagus. Frequent reflux can make it difficult to sleep, especially when symptoms appear in the evening. GERD affects millions of people in the United States and is very common among older people. Elderly people can experience more adverse effects from GERD because health conditions may keep them lying down in bed more frequently, a position which lends itself to more reflux.
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Sleep disruptions can make it hard for people to stay awake during the day and lower their quality of life if left untreated. If you or your loved one are having trouble sleeping, don’t take it as a normal sign of aging. Talk to your doctor and see if there are treatments to help you sleep better and improve symptoms of any underlying conditions.
This article was originally published by Generations Healthcare.