Getting a good night’s sleep may become more difficult as we age.
According to the
National Sleep Foundation, older adults experience at least four types of sleep disorders more frequently
than younger people. These include:
- sleep apnea, a breathing disorder in which there can be loud snoring and
breathing actually pauses repeatedly during sleep, causing an individual
to wake up throughout the night gasping for air
- restless legs syndrome, a sensation of something moving inside the limbs,
coupled with an urge to move the legs
- periodic limb movement disorder, such as leg jerks or kicking during sleep
that causing awakenings
- advanced sleep phase syndrome, whereby people have progressively more difficulty
staying awake in the evenings
“Conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and depression can produce
or eventually lead to symptoms that interrupt sleep,” explains Dr.
Kathy Wilson, Director of Catawba Valley Medical Center’s
Center for Sleep Disorders and pulmonologist at
Catawba Valley Pulomonology.
Serious sleep disorders aren’t the only culprit contributing to a
poor night’s sleep.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says our sleep-wake cycle changes as we get older, so we might
get sleepy earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.
Older adults may also have more trouble falling asleep at night, staying
asleep or they might wake up very early in the morning and not be able
to go back to sleep, causing them to be more sleepy during the daytime.
Persistent problems falling asleep at night are not inevitable. For example,
if sleep apnea is present, breathing devices or surgery can provide relief
or if medications are interfering with sleep, your doctor may be able
to prescribe something different.
“In cases where there are no underlying medical reasons for the insomnia,
it may be that certain habits are causing sleep disturbance,” says
Dr. Wilson. Among the things to watch out for:
- caffeine, especially late in the day, can interrupt sleep
- exercising too close to bedtime can cause problems
- alcohol may induce sleep initially, but disrupt the sleep cycle later at night
Dr. Wilson also suggests:
- Avoid long naps in the middle of the day. If you can’t fall asleep
after 30 minutes or so in bed, don’t lie there getting frustrated;
get up and do something quiet for a while, like reading or listening to
quiet music, and then go back to bed. In addition,
- Ask your doctor if any of your medicines could be keeping you awake at night
- Avoid foods or situations that induce wakefulness
- Develop and follow a regular routine for relaxing before bedtime
If you have questions or concerns about poor sleep,
The Center for Sleep Disorders at Catawba Valley Medical Center can help. Ask your physician if a sleep
study would be beneficial for you, or call 828.485.2814 for more information.