Sleep and the Elderly

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Healthy sleep as part of healthy ageing is very important. It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age. In fact, we will never out grow our need for sleep.

As we age, sleep remains as important to our body’s physical and emotional well being. Studies clearly indicate that the better the quality and quantity of sleep, the better health and quality of life of older adults tends to be.Sleep occurs in multiple stages including dreamless periods of light and deep sleep, and occasional periods of active dreaming (REM sleep). The sleep cycle is repeated several times during the night and although total sleep time tends to remain constant, older people spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep. This change may be a normal part of aging, or it may result from medical problems that are common in elderly people and from the medications and other treat [elderly lady as sleep] ments for those problems.

About half of all people over 65 have frequent sleeping problems, such as Insomnia, Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome and Sleep Apnea. Research also suggests that circadian rhythms that coordinate the timing of our bodily functions are affected. When a woman reaches menopause, the hot flashes, changes in breathing and decreasing hormone levels can lead to many restless nights.As we age, there is an increased incidence of medical problems, which are often chronic. In general, people with poor health or chronic medical conditions have more sleep problems.

Aging does not inherently bring sleep difficulties with it. In all stages of life we will encounter difficulties sleeping. Some factors that we should take into consideration are…

  • Lifestyles changes, as we age we can become less active. This sedentary lifestyle centred indoors has our bodies less fatigued
  • Napping during the day affects our night time sleep patterns
  • Our sleep environment: having a restful environment in which to lay your head is very important. These can include the right mattress, pillows, room colours
  • Medications: conditions common in the elderly require medications that can have a negative impact on sleep
  • Chronic pain from illness or back problems
  • Poor diet and eating at wrong times
  • Caffeine consumption at the wrong times of day or excessive intake
  • Emotional and psychological issues such as a feeling of isolation or stress related to separation from or the loss of loved ones and depression
  • Alcohol consumption or even abuse
  • Frequent urination

Did you know?To drop off we must cool off; body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked. That’s why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep. The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. But later in life, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees – one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.

Sleep is the corner stone of our health, if we fail our bodies on providing the correct sleep to allow the rejuvenation and growth that is required, we are exposing it to the serious complications that sleep deprivation can cause.

In Short: That our need for sleep somehow declines as we get old is a misnomer – we never outlive our need for sleep. It remains the best way to stay fit and healthy

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Posts from the Harvey Norman blog team.

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