A Good Rest is Sometimes Just A Dream
For many aging adults, a good night’s sleep is far from reality. Some individuals have difficulty going to sleep and wake up after only a few hours. Their daytime exhaustion may be so overpowering that they can’t operate a vehicle or take part in other typical functions.
Around half of the individuals who make a complaint to their doctors about inadequate sleep wind up with a prescription drug. Not only are these avoidable but they are also habit-forming and can trigger negative effects, as explained by sleep researcher Michael Vitiello, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.
“It is far better for people to consider what simple changes could be made to improve their sleep and to understand how sleep patterns change with age”, Vitiello says.
Typical and regular sleep complications, which afflict up to 40% of aging seniors, consist of light sleep, constant waking, and daytime exhaustion. Among the elderly , there is also a reduction in the deep-sleep phase and an escalation in duration of wakefulness throughout the night. “Compared with younger adults, even carefully screened non-complaining older adults exhibit the sleep pattern changes described,” writes Vitiello.
Although many senior citizens make a complaint of inadequate sleep, comparatively few have true sleep disorders and even smaller numbers require typically prescribed sleep drugs. Sleep disorders in older adults consist of apnea (a momentary cessation of breathing which can also have an effect on younger individuals) and occasional limb movement, which can take the form of periodic leg movements during sleep (PLMS) or restless leg syndrome. Within this syndrome, the individual is overcome by powerful urges to move their legs consistently before sleep, which stop them from going to sleep.
Long before a physician can identify a sleep disorder, you should conduct a comprehensive medical examination, asses medications the individual is consuming, and talk to your elderly loved one’s spouse or bed companion about their nightly routines.
In some cases medication is suggested, but “although these drugs may be useful in the management of insomnia, they fail to provide long-term relief from chronic sleep disturbances. Hypnotics can worsen existing sleep disturbances by inducing drug-dependency insomnia and, when the drug is discontinued after intermediate to long-term use, rebound insomnia and nightmares,” Vitiello says.
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