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Achieving a Good Night’s Sleep as a Senior


Achieving a Good Night’s Sleep as a Senior


It is expected to experience changes in sleeping patterns as you age. This may involve becoming sleepy earlier, waking up earlier, experiencing fewer hours of sleep, or going through less deep sleep. The misconception that aging means a decline in sleep just refuses to nod off. Like any age group, seniors also need seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep is important to both physical and emotional health of older adults as it was during younger years.

Disturbed sleep and waking up tired every morning are some symptoms of insomnia that should not be dismissed as an expected part of aging. Sleep difficulties can result in day-to-day impairment. Addressing poor sleep in seniors can significantly improve the ability to concentrate, remember details, function well, enjoy life, and reduce the need for long-term health care and assistance.


The Importance of Sleep for Older Adults

Sleep requirements vary from person to person over their lifetime. Interestingly, the same amount of sleep is needed by both young people and seniors. Unfortunately, sleep and growing older may not always go hand-in-hand in aging. Many people aged 65 and over find it difficult to have good sleep almost every night and receive the required amount of sleep needed.

A survey by the National Sleep Foundation reveals that seniors are more likely to wake up frequently during the night. Particularly among older adults, insomnia is a common complaint that can be quite serious. It can result in dysfunction in self-care, physical activities and social life – all of which have a critical bearing to the well-being of any senior adult.

A good night’s sleep is vital to the physical and emotional health of seniors. Without quality sleep, seniors may be susceptible to depression, attention and memory problems, excessive sleepiness during the day, and increased fall risks. Insomnia can also contribute to serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems, and female breast cancer. On the other hand, proper sleep can improve seniors’ concentration and memory formation, allow the body to repair damaged cells, and strengthen the immune system against diseases.

Every senior needs enough sleep to keep the mind alert, preserve energy levels, regain strength, lower the risk of age-related cognitive decline, and live life to the fullest.


Common Causes of Insomnia and Sleep Problems in Older Adults

Certain biological changes occur as age progresses, causing sleep to be more difficult to come by for seniors. More than the usual shift in circadian rhythm, there are other countless reasons that can be attributed as to why seniors have difficulty achieving good quality sleep. Many of the reasons are obvious and are often ignored. The sooner the causes are identified, the sooner they can be addressed:

• Poor bedtime habits and sleep environment – Pre-sleep rituals, such as alcohol consumption, watching TV, and irregular sleep hours can affect or interrupt sleep quality. A room that is uncomfortably hot, noisy or lighted is a poor environment and not conducive to sleep in.

• Too much daytime naps – Naps are a refreshing way to energize during the day. Too much napping, or naps that easily turn into deep sleep can affect the sleeping pattern at night.

• Medical conditions – Physical health conditions, including diabetes, asthma, arthritis, heartburn, sleep apnea, snoring, Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), or Alzheimer’s disease can cause insomnia or disrupted sleep, especially when they cause pain, frequent urination, etc.

• Caffeine consumption – Too much caffeine intake throughout the day can deter sleep among older adults. The strength of caffeine stimulant lasts longer and can keep the aged awake at night.

• Menopause and post menopause – These conditions can cause hot flashes and night sweats that may interrupt sleep.

• Medications – Seniors tend to take a combination of medication for various reasons, which in itself can impair sleep. Additionally, the side-effects of medication can cause insomnia and other sleep problems in seniors.

• Stress – Significant life changes like the death of a beloved, relocation, retirement, or living in an assisted-facility can be distressful to anyone. It is easy to understand the reason insomnia is a common sleep problem among them.

• Lack of social engagement – Socializing with family, friends, and colleagues can boost the activity level. With social activities, there is nothing to trigger and prompt the body to prepare for a good night’s sleep.

• Lack of sunlight – Bright sunlight helps regulate the production and release of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a role in sleep-wake cycles. It is connected to the time of day, increasing at night and decreasing during the day. The amount of melatonin production drops with age.

Regardless of the root cause of sleepless nights, it is important to address the issue because healthy sleep is something one should enjoy in later life.


Putting Sleeping Pills to Rest

The vicious cycle of sleepless nights and daytime fatigue can take a huge toll on the mood, energy, behavior, and overall health of senior adults with insomnia and other sleep issues. The desperate need for sleep can tempt you to pop in a sleeping pill or use a sleep aid to set up for a good night’s sleep. While these can work in providing short-term relief, sleep medication cannot cure the issue or address the underlying symptoms. In fact, sleep problems can worsen in the long run.

Many ads promote the efficacy of sleeping pills in helping people achieve a full, restful night. It may be true in certain situations, such as when travelling across time zones or recovering from a medical procedure. In truth, sleep medications cannot resolve insomnia and they come with a range of side effects, including drowsiness, dependence and tolerance. Sleeping pills may serve as temporary treatment, but they do not address other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.

Sleeping pills may help to some extent, but not as much when it comes to the aid of older adults who stand a greater risk if such sedative-hypnotic drugs are taken as sleep medications. The drugs can cause confusion, distort cognitive faculties, and affect the system of balance in seniors. This can consequently increase the risk of car accidents, falls and bone fractures, which may lead to hospitalization or fatality in seniors.


Therapy as the Best Bedfellow for Treating Insomnia and Sleep Difficulties in Later Life

It is estimated that at least 65 percent of older adults complain about at least one sleep disturbance, such as insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, waking up too early, and frequent awakenings at night. Although these are not a typical part of aging, ignoring the issue contributes to the prevalence, severity, and chronicity of sleep problems in later life.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the gold standard in addressing sleep issues. It has a higher rate of success in treating insomnia and other sleep problems than prescription sleep medication minus the risks or side effects. This form of therapy provides the tools that promote sleep, enhance sleep quality, and tackle the complexities of geriatric insomnia.

If you or a significant senior loved one is experiencing sleep problems that prevent you from drifting off into dreamland, you can find the right fit therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC who can help you. As long as you remain truthful and committed to the process, you may soon reap the benefits of therapy in helping you achieve improved consolidated sleep every night. Call now to request an appointment!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC
Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Silver City NC, Linden NC, Bowmore NC, Autryville NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Pineview NC, Rex NC, Lemon Springs NC, Johnsonville NC, Eastover NC, Stedman NC and Wade, NC
Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

Counseling Information

How Do I Set Up my FIRST Appointment?

  • Call: 910-636-0011 (Fastest way to schedule)
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Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

Our Mailing Address:

PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Choose your Therapist

  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, and Cash

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Fayetteville, NC