Sleep Problems in Seniors

Last Updated : 09/15/20183 min read

Sleep problems are common in seniors even if you are healthy, according the U.S. National Library of Medicine. However, sleep needs in seniors remain consistent with that of younger adults. All adults need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.

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Sleep problems in seniors include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy. Most sleep problems may result in your feeling fatigued during the day and interfere with your ability to carry out the activities of daily life.

Sleep problems in seniors: insomnia

Insomnia could affect all stages of sleep. Symptoms of insomnia include lying awake for a long time before falling asleep, being awake for most of the night, and waking up too early, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Insomnia could be caused by an array of medical problems, according to the National Sleep Foundation, including asthma, chronic pain, sinus allergies, and arthritis. You may need cognitive and behavioral treatments for insomnia, medication, or treatment of the underlying condition that is causing the sleep problem.

Sleep problems in seniors: sleep apnea

Sleep apnea causes breathing interruptions during sleep according the U.S. National Library of Medicine. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly, although not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Being overweight, male, and having a family history of sleep apnea puts you at a greater risk of developing it. Learn about treatment for sleep apnea.

Sleep problems in seniors: restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Restless leg syndrome happens when you are sitting or lying down and results in a strong urge to move your legs. This sleep problem can create a crawling, tingling, or burning sensation. Lifestyle changes and medications may help reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Learn more about medication for restless leg syndrome.

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Sleep problems in seniors: narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that interferes with the brain’s ability to control sleeping and waking cycles, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Symptoms of narcolepsy include excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis and hallucinations. People with narcolepsy may fall asleep unintentionally while in the middle of an activity like talking, eating, or driving. Doctors may recommend medications and lifestyle changes to treat the sleep problem of narcolepsy.

What causes sleep problems in seniors?

Some causes of sleep problems in seniors, like family history and changes in the body’s natural internal clock, cannot be controlled.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, you can control certain causes of sleep problems including:

  • Alcohol use
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Nicotine use, which like caffeine, is a stimulant
  • Heave meals close to bedtime

You may be able to ask a doctor to help you with other causes of sleep problems according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine including:

  • Depression
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Inactivity
  • Certain medications, herbs, and supplements

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