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Q: Does the need for sleep change with age? My parents can’t seem to get enough.
A: Sleep problems and disturbances unfortunately become common with age.
Sleep patterns and habits often change, and a person may have trouble falling asleep or may not be able to stay asleep as long as before.
Others wake up frequently at night and are unable to get the quality sleep they need.
The reasons for these sleep disturbances can cover a range of primary sleep disorders, medical conditions, medications, and even common everyday substances.
Older people may experience:
Insomnia — Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or having restless sleep.
Sleep Apnea — brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) — the irresistible urge to move the legs during sleep.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder — involuntary movement of the limbs during sleep.
Sleep circadian rhythm disorders — a disturbed sleep-wake cycle
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Certain medical conditions can lead to sleep problems, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, neurological, gastrointestinal or respiratory disorders and problems with bladder control .
Likewise, certain medications can help disrupt sleep, such as diuretics, steroids, anticholinergics, H2 blockers, adrenergic drugs, antidepressants, and others.
Coffee, alcohol, and smoking are well known to disrupt nighttime rest.
If you or someone you love experience a change in your sleep patterns, be sure to discuss it with a doctor.
They may do a physical exam and/or request that a sleep diary be kept for a few weeks.
If the doctor suspects a primary sleep disorder after reviewing the diary, a sleep study test may be ordered.
This is usually done at night in a sleep study lab where a technician can monitor body movement, breathing, heart rate, and any periods of sleep apnea.
The results are sent to the doctor for interpretation and diagnosis.
Often these simple behavioral adjustments will increase the quality and quantity of our sleep.
• Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (avoid naps).
• Avoid bright lights and engage in quiet activity before bedtime.
• Create a calm, soothing and dark environment for sleeping.
• Use the bed only for sleeping and having sex (not for a host of other activities).
Healthy sleep is vital for our mental, physical and emotional well-being.
Join Dr. Tony Stigall for a discussion on sleep studies and restful sleep at “Ask the Doctor” on Tuesday, March 8. To RSVP, call One Senior Place in Viera at 321-751-6771.
One Senior Place is a resource marketplace and provider of on-site information, advice, care and services for seniors and their families. The questions in this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and home care. Send your questions to [email protected], call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.
Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera. She hosts “Senior Health Friday with Nurse Lisa” monthly.