Living Well: Sleep problems of later life
By Marci McDonald, NP
Ministry Medical Group
Sleep affects how we feel and function on a daily basis; it has a major impact on our quality of life. We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping, this “unproductive” time directly impacts our waking hours.
The parasympathetic autonomic nervous system, which is associated with rest, nurturing and regeneration of body tissues, is activated during sleep. Without adequate sleep, we are more likely to develop illness. .
Individuals age 65 and older need approximately 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Difficulty sleeping is a common complaint among elderly patients. Typical symptoms of sleep problems in the elderly include difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.
There are numerous causes of impaired sleep in older adults including, but not limited to, lifestyle changes that accompany retirement, illness, or debilitation. Many common medical and psychiatric illnesses in older adults are associated with poor sleep. Any condition associated with chronic pain also disturbs sleep. Some medications may also contribute to poor sleep. The consequences of chronic sleep problems can be detrimental to overall health status.
The following tips are recommended to individuals who report sleep difficulties:
Reduce time spent in bed when not sleeping.
• Establish and maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule. Avoid daytime naps.
• Engage in daily exercise, but not right before bed.
• Establish a calm, quiet bedroom setting.
• Ensure comfortable bedroom temperature, cooler temperatures are recommended.
• Limit nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol especially in the evening hours.
• Avoid sleep aids unless they are recommended by your health care provider.
If you are concerned with sleep difficulties, please consult with your health care provider for an evaluation and treatment recommendations.
Marci McDonald is a Family Nurse Practitioner with Ministry Medical Group in Eagle River.