Coping With Sleep Deprivation In Older People
Most people have times when they experience sleep problems, but these can often become more apparent with ageing. Sleep patterns can change, and your loved one may have health conditions that affect their ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Reasons for Sleeping Poorly
If your parent complains of waking frequently during the night or says that they find it difficult to get off to sleep, they may have too little sleep or the sleep they do get can be poor-quality. Arthritis in older people can often cause joint pain that affects sleep, or they may need to get up frequently to use the toilet. Sometimes stress can play a part in keeping them awake, particularly if they have lost a loved one or had to move home recently. Coping with sleep deprivation is not necessarily a problem in the short term, but if it continues it can cause your parent to feel fatigued in the daytime and less able to cope with everyday tasks.
How Much Sleep Should an Older Person Get?
Adults need, on average, to sleep for about eight hours a night. Older people also need this amount of sleep but often find that they sleep deeply for three or four hours and after this they can easily be disturbed. Although individuals are all different, you may find that coping with sleep deprivation for an extended period of time causes your parent to experience certain health issues.
Helping with Sleep Deprivation
There are various ways of helping a parent to sleep better. They may benefit from encouragement to become more physically active, especially if they have limited mobility. You could accompany them on short walks or perhaps suggest other gentle exercises such as swimming. Getting outside during the day can help by increasing their exposure to daylight, which can stimulate the production of melatonin. This aids sleep by increasing the amount of oxygen in the brain.
In addition to physical activity, mentally stimulating activities such as puzzles and reading can also help to make your parent tired enough to sleep better at night.
Introducing a bedtime routine can help people who are coping with sleep deprivation. This can include relaxing with a book or watching TV in the evenings and avoiding foods and activities that will cause too much stimulation before bed.
Ensure that your parent is comfortable at night, both with their bed and bedding and with the clothes they wear at night. Their mattress and pillows should offer the support they need, and natural fabrics such as cotton are often more comfortable than synthetics.
Ensure the bedroom is dark enough, particularly if, like many older people, your parent goes to bed while it is still light outside. If they like a night light left on, this can be at a low level.
A review of their medication may reveal that an item they are taking is affecting their sleep, so consult their GP if they continue to sleep poorly. Advice from a professional can often uncover a problem that is preventing your parent from enjoying restful and restorative sleep.