Elderly Insomnia: Causes and Treatment Tips

We’ve all been there: you’re lying in bed at night, wishing you could fall asleep, but you’re wide awake. Or you wake up in the middle of the night and lie there for hours tossing and turning, wondering why sleep eludes you.

An occasional sleepless night is one thing. But chronic insomnia is a serious issue that can impact your quality of life and even put you in danger. After all, when you’re tired you’re much more likely to make a careless mistake that could lead to a fall or accident.

Insomnia can strike at any age, but seniors are more likely to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep all night. Why is that?

Common Causes of Insomnia in the Elderly

  • Changes in your body’s regular sleep cycles. It’s common for seniors to naturally wake up earlier in the morning and fall asleep earlier in the evening than they did when they were younger.
  • Hormonal changes, such as menopause. Hot flashes or night sweats can make it difficult to sleep comfortably. Even post menopause, some women continue to have difficulty with sleep.
  • Anxiety or Depression. Depression is more common in the elderly than many people realize In addition, the death of a loved one or another life change can lead to anxiety that can easily disturb sleep.
  • Pain. Pain caused by conditions such as arthritis can make it difficult to get comfortable enough to sleep well.
  • Medical Conditions. Health issues such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, respiratory problems, and even diabetes can lead to insomnia.
  • Medications. Older people tend to take more medications, and the side effects of these, as well as interactions of combinations of drugs, can lead to sleep issues. If this is the case with you, your doctor may be able to make adjustments to your medications.

9 Tips For Getting a Better Night’s Sleep

If you are experiencing insomnia, you should talk to your doctor right away. But you’ll be happy to know that you may not need to rely on medications to help you fall asleep and stay that way, especially if your insomnia isn’t being caused by a medical condition. A few minor adjustments can make a major difference in the quality of your sleep.

1. Stick to a regular routine.

Try to go to bed and get up at approximately the same time every day. This will help tell your body when it’s time to sleep.

2. Set the stage at bedtime.

When you’re getting ready to wind down for the night, lower the lights a little, play some soft music, take a relaxing warm bath or shower, or do something else that will relax you. Establish a regular, calming bedtime ritual that works for you. This way, when it’s time for lights out, your relaxed state will make it easier to fall asleep.

3. Turn off the TV.

Avoid watching television or spending time on the computer later in the evening. These can stimulate your brain and make it more difficult to get to sleep.

4. Create the right sleeping environment.

A dark, quiet, cool bedroom will help you get to sleep and stay that way.

5. Cut out the caffeine.

You may enjoy having a cup of coffee or two in the morning to start your day, but if you continue drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks later in the day, they can keep you wired well into the night. A good rule of thumb is to avoid caffeine for at least three hours before you plan to go to bed. The same goes for other stimulants like nicotine.

6. Limit alcohol.

Sure a glass of wine or a cocktail may make you feel drowsy at first. But alcohol can actually interfere with your sleep cycles, making it more likely that you’ll wake up during the night.

7. Avoid heavy meals, spicy foods, and excessive amounts of liquid before bedtime.

Otherwise you could find yourself awakened by heartburn or an urgent need to get up to use the bathroom!

8. Exercise.

Regular exercise promotes good sleep. Just make sure that you schedule your fitness routine for early in the day. Exercising within four hours of bedtime can interfere with sleep.

9. Get outside.

Or at least put up the shades. Sunlight helps to regulate melatonin, which controls our sleep-wake cycles.

If you’re suffering from insomnia, your doctor can help you analyze factors in your life which may be contributing to your restlessness. Then you can come up with a plan to help you get the rest you need.

The Davis Community Offers Rehabilitation at Its Finest

The Davis Community has a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center where our residents can exercise and/or recover from their surgeries using modern equipment designed especially for seniors. Our warm salt water pool offers seniors the opportunity to experience the many benefits of aquatic exercise or therapy. We take pride in offering the best rehabilitation in Wilmington NC. If you or an aging parent need physical rehabilitation, then visit our Facebook page to learn more about the fitness center at Davis Community. Or, for more information about our retirement community, nursing homes, or skilled nursing services, just give us a call today at 910-566-1200.


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