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Releasing Yourself from Geriatric Insomnia

Counseling for geriatric insomnia with Carolina Counseling Services North Fayetteville Office Fayetteville NC, senior insomnia counseling, senior sleep therapy, insomnia in seniors, late-life counseling for insomnia,

Releasing Yourself from Geriatric Insomnia


Siestas used to be a luxury. Now that you are retired, you look forward to catching up on “lost” sleep. Yet, why is getting enough hours of sleep at night becoming a problem? Is it because you are overdoing your afternoon naps, or is it because of another reason that may have serious implications to your health? If your “tossing and turning” and “counting sheep” have become the nightly pattern, seek help because it could be insomnia.

Insomnia is a common complaint among older adults. Late-life insomnia is called geriatric insomnia. It can become very difficult to fall and stay asleep. Like younger adults, you need seven to eight hours of sleep at night, even nine often times. If you have difficulty attaining that much sleep, pay attention. According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), healthy seniors are supposed to receive “… a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night…” Although while aging “certain aspects of sleep can become more difficult, many older adults said they still feel good during the day.”

Aging naturally changes sleep, but not to the extent that your physical and emotional health deteriorate. Geriatric insomnia has several possible causes. It also has varied potential effects. A behavioral health professional can help in the assessment of your symptoms, as well as in the treatment of insomnia.


Sleep Changes with Aging

It has been scientifically proven that aging can cause a change in a person’s circadian rhythm. The shift can alter certain biological processes, so that their sleep becomes lighter and extends for short durations compared to younger adults. In simple terms, it means that sleep can become more difficult with age. In scientific terms, it means that the REM (or rapid eye movement) sleep becomes lighter and shorter because of changes in certain biological processes. What is meant by this?

For healthy adults, a good quality sleep has five stages. The entire cycle takes anywhere from 90 to 110 minutes. The first four stages involve the NREM or non-rapid eye movement sleep. The fifth and last stage is REM sleep, the stage when dreams happen. Usually, a good quality sleep has four to five cycles. Certain changes in biological processes can cause a disruption in the last or advanced sleep phase, so your sleep is cut, and you don’t dream.

Aside from these changes, personal habits that you’ve acquired as a senior/retiree may also affect your night’s sleep. If you drink coffee close to bedtime, take long naps during the daytime, and stay cooped up inside your home for long hours so that your biological clock is altered, you will most likely become sleepless. Aging can also cause your metabolism to slow down. Consequently, your toilet schedule and habits may change, so you may wake up at ungodly hours to relieve yourself. Then there are those medications that may affect sleep or trigger drug interactions.


Behind the Elusive Sleep

Why is sleep becoming elusive as you age? There are several possible underlying reasons. If you have a medical condition, know that these can trigger wakefulness, which may trigger insomnia. Some age-related conditions and issues that are linked to geriatric insomnia are those that may cause you urinate frequently at night – diabetes, continence issues, and prostate enlargement. Other conditions that have wakefulness as a symptom are neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Taking medications for these conditions and other physical or emotional issues may also disrupt your sleep. Taking them before bedtime may affect your sleep. Taking several drugs or polypharmacy may likewise promote drug interactions. Therefore, taking your meds must be done, strictly following the doctor’s instructions. If sleep is elusive and you are taking a number of medications, tell your doctor about it.

Know that sleeplessness is also a common symptom of emotional issues and conditions. If receiving good quality sleep is a troubling issue, but you do not have age-related or chronic medical issues, nor are you taking multiple meds, it would be best to see a behavioral health professional – depression and anxiety can be the culprits.


Depression and Insomnia

Late-life insomnia is common among seniors, just as depression. The link between the two – depression and insomnia – has been established by several studies. According to WebMD, 80 percent of those with depression, representing six million adults in the United States, are also sleep deprived. These stats cause you to wonder, could your insomnia be a symptom or a cause of your depression?

Your vulnerability to depression could be a genetic predisposition. It can also be due to having low levels of specific brain chemicals or neurotransmitters. Certain psychosocial factors may also increase your risk for depression, like those distressing life events that left a scar on your heart.  Having an introverted personality and poor health can also be significant factors. Healthline says it can also be complicated by factors like “limited mobility, isolation, facing mortality, transitioning from work to retirement, financial hardships, prolonged substance abuse, deaths of friends and loved ones, widowhood or divorce, and chronic medical conditions.”

The tandem – depression and insomnia – is a serious concern that must not to be trivialized. It can complicate your ability to adjust during transitions. It can cause you withdraw from people. The combination may wreak havoc on your health. It can even become complicated, so that you also develop anxiety. This is the case for many seniors that are not receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment. This is unfortunate because without diagnosis and treatment the worst is yet to come. Do not lose hope, though, because depression and geriatric insomnia are treatable.


Is This You?

Though sleeplessness has a high prevalence among older adults, staying awake for a few nights does not necessarily mean you are an “insomniac.” It is expected that you may not get enough sleep when something eventful has happened – your doctor telling you about the worsening of your condition, the demise of a loved one, a peer or friend developing dementia, etc. Considering your overall health, though, sleep deprivation for a week or so must not be ignored.


There are certain signs and symptoms that indicate you possibly have geriatric insomnia. According to A Place for Mom, the red flags that you must pay attention to are:


  • Taking more than 30-45 minutes to fall asleep
  • Having trouble staying asleep
  • Waking up early, unable to fall back asleep
  • Depression
  • Feeling drowsy, tired or exhausted
  • Complaining of being up all night
  • Accidents due to sleep deprivation
  • Irritability
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty concentrating


Remember that sleeplessness is nonspecific. This means that it can point to several medical and emotional possibilities. These must be ruled out, one by one, to determine the underlying root of insomnia. No one can do this, but a professional. If a doctor could not find anything wrong with you and you fear geriatric insomnia, see a behavioral health professional. Seeing a therapist first before a psychiatrist is practical and can be a very productive step in the right direction.


“Sleep Like a Baby” Again

After many years of being a tired, pressured and stressed adult, you must be looking forward to relishing the many rewards that seniors are expected to enjoy. Your sleep pattern will naturally change because of aging, and you may become a “morning person.” When geriatric insomnia is a dominant factor in your life, though, you are bound to miss sleep and struggle with the ill effects on your health, focus and moods.  

Sleeping fitfully night after night can be too much of a burden for someone who is aging and changing by the day. If you want to sleep better, it may be best that you seek help early from an independently contracted counselor/therapist with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC.

The right fit counselor can help you with the evaluation and treatment of your symptoms. Their qualified and professional assistance can spell a world of difference, particularly when sleeplessness is fast becoming a precursor of other emotional issues, such as depression, anxiety and overwhelm.

Since sleep is important in maintaining good health, especially, in your senior years, do not ignore the signs of geriatric insomnia. Call CCS – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC to find the right kind of help, so you can sleep peacefully again, just like when you were younger.

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

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Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

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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

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    Location: Fayetteville, NC