Why Do The Elderly Suffer From Sleep Disturbances?

Being able to sleep like a baby is surely a blessing, especially for older individuals who often have trouble catching enough ZZZs. Once men and women reach 60 and older, they find it harder to get some quality sleep. Some experience insomnia, others develop sleep disorders, and then there are also those who may have altered their sleep patterns.

These and more can cause issues that rob the elderly of a good night’s rest.

Why Do The Elderly Suffer From Sleep Disturbances?License: Creative Commons image source


Causes of Sleep Problems in the Elderly

Older individuals have more trouble getting some quality sleep due to various reasons. Some of these will be discussed below.

1. Pain

A significant number of old people experience some sort of pain or discomfort because of certain acute or chronic physical conditions. Pain, even very mild pain, can cause a person to wake up in the middle of the night, and it can be hard to go back to sleep. In order to sleep better, an individual who experiences pain should consult his physician about what he can do or what meds he can take to alleviate his sleeplessness in order for him to be able to rest better.

2. Medications

It’s common for the elderly to take certain medications regularly. Certain kinds of maintenance meds, however, can affect sleep. Prescription drugs for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and other common ailments can contain caffeine or some other type of stimulant. Even over-the-counter meds can be made up of substances that can have a negative effect on one’s sleep pattern, such as those that increase the urge to urinate or those that can make a person feel very hungry.

3. Psychological Problems

It is not surprising for people to develop some mental health problems as they grow older. Such conditions aren’t necessarily bad. Most of the time, these changes are part of aging and some individuals may inherit their conditions too. Becoming more and more forgetful is, for instance, common in the elderly. But others also develop more serious psychiatric disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. Others could become mentally distressed because of significant changes in their lives, like being placed into a nursing home or experiencing the death of a loved one.

4. Sleep Environment and Habits

Old age can also bring many health problems that have an effect on one’s physical abilities and mental condition. For example, it might become harder for a person to sleep on his own bed, and he may require a different kind of mattress that will better fit the needs of his aging body. A person may also have a harder time following a healthy sleep pattern because he’ll probably need to wake up many times during the night to take medicine or to see to certain bodily requirements.

5. Coffee, Cigarette, Alcohol

A lot of individuals are in the habit of having coffee, a cigarette or two, or a nightcap before bed. They are likely to continue with such practices as they grow older, and these will have an effect on sleep. Coffee contains caffeine, while cigarettes have nicotine. Both substances are stimulants that increase the heart rate or blood pressure, which are only some of the many physical effects of such substances. Alcohol, however, can affect the body in two ways; it can stimulate the body or slow it down. Oftentimes, when taken near bedtime, alcohol quickens bodily functions and excites the mind as well.




This blog was written by Claire Thorpe, a freelancer who specializes in health issues. She hopes that her articles will encourage people to learn more about the importance of sleep and the factors that can affect it.

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