Sleep Health Problems for Seniors

Sleep health and daytime functioning problems are common for seniors but there are some remedies. The architecture of sleep changes as people age. As people age their sleep is lighter, they get less deep sleep, and in the lighter stages of sleep, tend to have more awakenings.

Because of this, seniors tend to report more insomnia, frequent awakenings and more tiredness during the day. This, in turn, can lead frequently to daytime napping, which sets up a vicious cycle of getting less at night and tending to make up for it during the day.

While a Grandparent dozing in their chair may be a stereotypical image of a senior citizen, it’s actually a myth that seniors need more sleep; they just need better sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, as a general rule newborn babies need about 12–18 hours of sleep, school-age children require about 10-11 hours and teenagers could use (but hardly ever get) 8.5–9.25 hours of shut-eye. This amount then decreases even more as we near adulthood, to between 60 and 90 fewer minutes of sleeping time than an adolescent. So on average, seniors tend to need the same amount as other adults, about 7–9 hours of sleep each night, say experts. Unfortunately, with more interruptions at night, seniors may not be getting the sleep they need. What’s more, while the quantity of sleep is a good guideline, the quality of those hours of sleep is what makes the real difference.

Research has shown that sleeping too little can put both your health and safety at risk: people who don’t get enough good-quality sleep are not as productive or able to remember information as well. They have a harder time paying attention and their reaction time is slower. Because of this, there is an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents associated with people who don’t sleep enough. Health issues linked to poor sleep include higher risk of obesity, diabetes and heart problems, as well as depression.

From the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as study was recently published in Jama Neuruology addressing “Shorter Sleep Duration and Poorer Sleep Quality Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarker” which suggested that poor sleeping habits may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing or experiencing a worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms. While it’s well known in the medical field that people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s tend to sleep poorly, their new research suggests a chicken-and-egg conundrum — that poor sleep might be a cause, rather than an effect, of the cognitive degenerative disease.

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