A common occurrence among seniors is the inability to get a good night’s sleep. Whether it’s from not being able to get to sleep, or waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep, both scenarios create the same ultimate effect. Lack of sleep leads to loss of memory, inability to concentrate, disorientation, loss of balance and decreased performance and affects the elderly even more than their younger counterparts.
Lack of Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of older people experience one or more nights of insomnia at least a few nights a week or more. While there are several possible causes, snoring is actually one of the most common ones. It tends to get worse as one ages and accompanies excess weight. It can also be a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing pauses for at least 10 seconds repeatedly throughout the night. This leads to disturbed and inadequate sleep as well as decreased oxygen which may ultimately lead to hypertension, heart disease and memory problems.
Tips to Help your Parent
The first step is to make an appointment with their primary health care provider to determine that there is not a yet undiagnosed underlying disease creating insomnia. Chronic pain, gastroesophageal reflex, medications, arthritis, depression, neurological conditions, and forms of dementia are all possible diseases that can lead to the inability to get to sleep or stay there. Once you know the cause, you can treat accordingly. Then, take the following steps:
- The body responds well to rituals and routine. This involves getting up and going to bed at the same time every day. If your parent requires a nap, limit it to no more than 30 minutes and schedule it for early in the afternoon.
- Create an evening ritual that symbolizes the end of the day and the beginning of slumber. This could be a warm bath filled with sea or Epsom salts and a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender. Play relaxing music. Drink herbal tea. Read a few chapters from a well-loved book.
- Dim the lights one hour prior to bed and turn off TVs and computers. Melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep in response to darkness, diminishes production with age. According to a review in NCBI, low-doses of melatonin may be useful in improving the quality of sleep. Be sure to check with your parent’s primary health care provider before administering.
- Schedule 30 minutes of exercise into your parent’s daily tasks and spend a few minutes every day out in the sunshine.
- Limit the intake of large meals and water just before bed. Limit the intake of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine throughout the day.
A good night’s sleep can make all the difference in one’s quality of life. As a family caregiver, helping your parent discover the best route to this end-goal is a task that will provide many physical, emotional and mental rewards for both you and your parent.
If you or an aging loved one are considering caregivers in West Trenton, NJ, please call the caring staff at Care Street Home Care. You can reach our Mercer/Burlington Division at (609) 496-5666.
Dr. Shelly, as he is fondly known, has served as an Alzheimer’s Support Group Facilitator in Mercer County and is a Certified Dementia Instructor. Knowledgeable, compassionate, and unusually devoted, his guidance is crucial in helping families understand their options and render decisions for their loved ones’ care plan. Dr. Shelly’s extensive experience, sincere and pleasant demeanor, and professional affiliations have made him a vital asset to Care Street.