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Insomnia in Elderly Adults: Causes, Management, Treatment

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as not being able to get to sleep and stay asleep. Insomnia happens to most people at one time or another in their life, but insomnia in elderly adults may be caused by more than just having too much on their mind. Just know that if you’re suffering from insomnia, there are treatments available.

What Causes Insomnia in Seniors?

While you may have heard that seniors need less sleep than younger people, that’s not actually true. Most older adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to feel completely rested. Even so, many elderly folks may find it difficult to get the sleep they need. This is due to several causes of insomnia in elderly adults.

First off, as you age, your circadian rhythm can change. You may find that you start to become tired earlier in the evening and then wake too early in the morning.

Secondly, certain medical conditions and medications can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. For example, respiratory problems and intestinal issues can disrupt your sleep patterns. Some medications that contain steroids also can keep you wide awake during the midnight hour.

Finally, studies have shown that depression and insomnia tend to go hand in hand. The relationship between the two isn’t completely clear, but depression needs to be excluded before treatment of insomnia can begin.

Management of Insomnia in the Elderly

The good news is that there are ways to combat insomnia. The first line of defense when it comes to how to treat insomnia in elderly adults is behavioral changes.

This includes things such as:

  • Limiting fluids up to 3 hours before bed
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Not having a large meal before bedtime
  • Keeping your bedroom as dark as possible
  • Doing what you can to reduce noise
  • Being as active as possible during the day

If you find that behavioral changes don’t work or aren’t enough to help you sleep better, then you should talk to your doctor about other home remedies for insomnia in elderly adults such as relaxation training, stimulus control, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Relaxation training shows you how to tense and relax muscles in your body. This can help you induce sleep. There are other techniques that include meditation and mindfulness. You can find recordings online that will show you how to follow these techniques.

Stimulus control deals with your relationship to your bedroom. This means using it only for sleep or sexual activities. Stimulus control also suggests having a set bedtime and waking schedule.

Cognitive behavioral therapy also deals with having set rising and sleeping times and reducing or eliminating naps.

When all else fails, there are medications you can consider taking that will help you sleep. Before deciding on one, it is best to talk to your primary care physician about insomnia medications for elderly adults in order to ensure you find the right one for you and your specific situation.

With a little work on your part and help from your doctor, you should be able to get a good night’s sleep without counting sheep.

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