Insomnia keeps caregivers up at night

BHC insomnia main.jpgIs your senior loved one restless? Wandering at night? Napping all day? Chances are they are experiencing the sleep disturbance insomnia.

According to the National Institute of Health, insomnia affects about 50% of senior adults 60 and older.

Far from being the occasional sleepless night, insomnia is a chronic condition that can last for years. This lack of sleep can contribute to memory loss, depression, irritability and other symptoms. It can also exacerbate physical illnesses and cognitive disorders.

Some of the causes, such as stress or too much caffeine, are common to people of all ages. But seniors also face a unique set of challenges that come with age and illness. Senior insomnia can be caused by numerous factors, alone or working together to disrupt sleep.

The need to get up and use the bathroom in the night and chronic pain are common causes of sleep loss for the elderly. They may also be experiencing insomnia as a side effect of medication or from an interaction of multiple prescriptions.

Health conditions may be causing snoring or sleep apnea that prevents seniors from getting the deep sleep that is needed to power daily living. Or, their insomnia may be a result of a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other disorders. When a senior is awake at night, they are also at greater risk for falls and even wandering out of the home.

If you notice your senior loved one is unusually drowsy or irritable during the day or if they complain of sleepless nights, the first step should be having them assessed by their physician to rule out any dangerous, underlying causes and to get their advice on improving sleep habits.

There are some easy steps that may not completely cure insomnia, as it has so many different causes, but that might help your senior get on a healthier sleep cycle.

  • Maintain a regular sleep routine and schedule. Encourage a relaxing bath, an hour without screens, relaxing music, or other activities that can signal to the brain that it is time to sleep.
  • Minimize stimulants during the day. If your senior has a cup of coffee by their side every waking hour, see if you can switch them to decaf or even un-caffeinated tea.
  • Designate the bed as a place for sleeping only. As much as possible, keep other activities, even reading and watching TV, out of bed. This can help retrain the mind to go to sleep on schedule.
  • Avoid daytime naps – especially in the afternoon – as much as is possible.
  • Avoid heavy snacks or excessing liquid intake before bed. Give the body a chance to rest inside and out.

If your senior loved one is experiencing insomnia or restlessness during the night, it can also prevent you, as a caregiver, from getting the sleep you need to function in your many roles during the day.

Belvedere Home Care offers 24-hour care that can keep seniors safer and help caregivers get the sleep and respite they need. Contact us at (518) 694-9400 Option 4 or to schedule your free home health care assessment.