Older adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. A good night’s sleep helps improve concentration and memory formation, allows your body to repair any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshes your immune system, which in turn helps to prevent disease.
Older adults who don’t sleep well are more likely to suffer from depression, attention and memory problems, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Additionally, insufficient sleep can also lead to serious health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems, and breast cancer in women.
Indications of a sleep disorder can include:
- Trouble falling asleep even though you feel tired
- Trouble getting back to sleep when awakened
- Not feeling refreshed after a night’s sleep
- Feeling irritable or sleepy during the day
- Difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching television, or driving
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Relying on sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep
- Trouble controlling your emotions
Your schedule or lifestyle can also contribute to insomnia such as napping or the timing of your naps, as well as caffeine. Circadian rhythms can shift as you age. The tendency may be to get to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have problems sleeping, but rather that you might need an adjustment to your lifestyle to accommodate a different sleep schedule.
Lifestyle circumstances that can contribute to insomnia can include:
- Poor sleep habits and sleep environment. These include irregular sleep hours, consumption of alcohol before bedtime, and falling asleep with the TV on.
- Health conditions such as a frequent need to urinate, pain, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, nighttime heartburn, restless legs syndrome (RLS) and sleep-disordered breathing—such as snoring and sleep apnea—and Alzheimer’s can interfere with sleep.
- Lack of exercise.
- Lack of social engagement.
- Sleep disorders.
- Lack of sunlight. Bright sunlight helps regulate melatonin and your sleep-wake cycles. Try to get at least two hours of sunlight a day. Keep shades open during the day or use a light therapy box.
If you are concerned about taking sleep medications for sleep trouble, lifestyle modifications and alternative treatments for sleep problems may include:
- Relaxation training
- Cognitive therapy
- Stimulus control (SC)
- Sleep restriction therapy (SRT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is often recommended for insomnia because it aims to improve sleep habits and behaviors. The cognitive part of CBT-I teaches you to recognize and change beliefs that affect your ability to sleep. For instance, this may include learning how to control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake. Research has demonstrated that CBT can be as or more effective than sleep medications in reducing symptoms of insomnia, particularly over the long term.
If you feel you may have an ongoing problem getting to sleep or sleeping properly through the night, contact your doctor.
Broad Street can help. Our Personal Assistants can help you develop a new lifestyle routine to help with sleep issues. Through our Professional Network we can help you find additional therapies to address insomnia. For more information, please call 847.728.0134.