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Top Sleep Issues Among Older People and How to Reduce Them

As we get older we often experience changes in our sleep patterns. Many older people sleep less during the night, find it difficult to get to sleep and find themselves napping in the daytime or waking frequently.

People going into a residential care home may find it particularly difficult to sleep properly due to unfamiliar surroundings and change in routine.

Most sleep changes are normal, caused by the way our bodies age, and they are usually nothing to worry about. As long as we feel rested in the morning and do not feel sleepy much of the day, it is acceptable that we may sleep less.

However, if lack of sleep is causing worry, it may be advisable to visit the doctor to see what can be done about it – because there really is no need to suffer from broken sleep every night just because of your age.


What Causes Broken Sleep?

Aside from normal bodily ageing, there are a number of factors which may be causing you to suffer from insomnia. The good news is that most of them are treatable.

Pain and discomfort are the most common causes. Frequent pain, from conditions such as arthritis, may wake you during the night. Heartburn, asthma, diabetes, sleep apnoea and breathlessness may also keep you from sleeping. If you have any of these conditions and find they are frequently waking you up, speak to your doctor to see if anything can be done.

Medication itself, however, may be another cause of insomnia. Again, if you think your medication is giving you side effects which are adding to your lack of sleep, talk to your doctor, who may be able to reduce or change your medicine.

Another common reason for waking during the night is to visit the bathroom. A frequent need to urinate at night does not have to be endured – your doctor will be able to recommend or even prescribe medication which may help you control your bladder better.

If your insomnia is severe, your GP may ask you to keep a sleep diary to monitor it over a certain amount of time, and if necessary they may refer you to a sleep specialist.

What Can You Do to Get a Better Sleep?

Aside from visiting health professionals, there are a number of steps you can take to give yourself a better chance of sleeping well.

Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not watching television too late and ensuring your bedroom is conducive to rest are some of the more basic steps.

If you are waking to go to the toilet, try not to drink much in the evening (although make sure you are not dehydrated).

Workers who care for older people, such as those in a residential care home, must ensure they know how to recognise when people they are looking after are not getting enough sleep, and they should take action to remedy it. Those involved in dementia care should be especially attentive.

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for everyone at every age. It helps people stay healthy and alert, so lack of sleep should never just be put down to ‘old age’.

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