Getting older is an inevitable part of life and many people know that, as we enter our senior years (and beyond), it is common knowledge that older people have trouble falling asleep, sleep less deeply and awaken often during the night. But why is that so? A team of researchers may have found an answer deep in the brain. The study which was published online enrolled 1,000 healthy 65-year-old men and women and is following them until their deaths after which their brains are donated for research. Beginning in 2005, the people in the study wore wristbands with motion recorders that enabled the researchers to determine how long and how well they were sleeping every night. The more time a person has spent in bed, the worse he or she sleeps. But researchers believe they can help people sleep well by giving them cues that will help them adapt to their own sleep environments.
You may have been hearing about the sleep hormone called melatonin as well. Researchers are still trying to tease out just how it works in older people. Scientists have gone back and forth in determining what happens to the levels of this hormone in the body as people age. As we age, our bodies produce less melatonin and/or become desensitized to it. This can lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Some of the symptoms include tiredness, headache, drowsiness, being overly alert when trying to fall asleep, decreased ability to concentrate, and even irritability if you are having trouble sleeping. Researchers are still trying to tease out just how it works in older people.
Many people over the age of 65 have reported sleeping problems and some have even said they feel tired or sleepy during the day. Could melatonin be responsible? A new study may show that it could play a part in helping with sleep problems. Experts are still working out just how helpful melatonin treatment could be for those over age 65, but one thing is certain medicines such as melatonin are not enough for everyone’s sleep problems. Thus, Melatonin is thought to be a sleep aid, but some studies show the elderly have less melatonin than they did when they were younger. If melatonin levels go down, your sleep might suffer.
What Is Sleep Disorder?
Sleep is often described as an extension of who we are. Most of us experience good sleep quality, but some adults struggle with staying asleep or waking up for a good night’s rest. Sleep disorders are common in older adults due to underlying health issues, medications, or underlying sleep disorders. Poor sleep can be a precursor to serious health problems such as an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Although the normal aging process can cause different sleep patterns to change, disturbed sleep and waking up tired are not part of normal aging. Although sleep patterns change as people age and their bodies change, you should not feel like there is something wrong with your sleep. Older adults are not having trouble sleeping and are actually doing the right thing by staying up late and getting to bed early. Older adults may: have trouble falling asleep, sleep fewer hours, wake up frequently in the night or early morning, and get less quality sleep. This can lead to health concerns like an increased risk of falling and daytime fatigue. Talk with a doctor if you or someone you know has trouble sleeping. You may see benefits from lifestyle changes or medication, depending on the cause. Roughly 50 percent of people over 55 have difficulty sleeping and do not get enough quality sleep. This can lead to longer-term health issues like falling, daytime fatigue, and a greater risk of falls.
Symptom With A Cause
Insomnia, rather than being a distinct condition of its own, “is best thought of as a manifestation of many conditions. There are no medications or single treatments that can be applied for the complaint of insomnia. Insomnia is not a disease but a symptom. As per the studies it is seen that there is no treatment that can be applied for the complaint of insomnia. Insomnia is often the symptom of underlying but treatable causes, such as restless legs syndrome or other sleep disorders. Many people with insomnia have underlying conditions that can be treated with medication or lifestyle changes. It seems that it affects about 10% of adults or up to 12 million people in the United States. People with this syndrome experience abnormal sensations when they go to bed.
The first thing to know about itching is that it is not a sign of anything serious. It could be caused by a number of conditions, including allergies or a non-allergic reaction to your skin. The good news is that there are effective treatments for itching and other symptoms caused by dermatitis. As it is described one must suffer from different feelings such as tingling, cramping, burning, creeping, itching, pulling, or aching. Other descriptions include numbness, a crawling sensation, or the feeling that water is flowing under the skin. Some researchers said that it is easy to treat. Taking vitamins or eliminating caffeine can help ease symptoms.
Causes Of Sleep Disorder
Insomnia is one of the most common medical complaints, especially in older adults. It may be associated with stress, medications, poor sleep habits, or changes in the sleep environment. Insomnia affects all age groups and can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome. Having trouble sleeping may also affect your stress levels and relationships with others. A study on older people in Singapore about sleep problems has reported that those who had trouble sleeping were more likely to have existing conditions and be less physically active.
There are various health conditions that can be caused due to sleep problems such as:
- Parkinson’s disease: It is seen that up to 40 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease have obstructive sleep apnea.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Because of this the person may find daytime drowsiness and difficulty staying asleep at night.
- Chronic pain such as arthritis pain.
- Cardiovascular disease: A study showed that people with cardiovascular disease regularly slept fewer than 6.5 hours, which thus resulted in increased death risk.
- Neurological conditions: Examples include, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury.
- Gastrointestinal conditions: Such as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Lung or respiratory conditions: For instance, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.
- Poor bladder control.
Apart from the above causes mentioned, there are certain medications that may disrupt the sleep schedule of the elderly such as:
- diuretics which are taken for high blood pressure or glaucoma
- inhaled anticholinergics for COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
- antihypertensive drugs which are also used for high blood pressure
- oral corticosteroids (prednisone) for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications (anxiolytics)
- antihistamines for allergies
- levodopa for Parkinson’s disease
- donepezil (Aricept) for Alzheimer’s disease
As we all know, at some point caffeine, smoking and alcohol may also affect sleep in different ways such as:
- Caffeine may cause in reducing sleep time by causing a delay in the body’s circadian rhythm.
- The risk of sleep apnea is raised by 25 percent in case there is an intake of alcohol.
- Nicotine can disrupt the circadian rhythm, causing more daytime sleepiness and less sleep time, including less REM sleep.
Common Sleep Problem In the Elderly
Older adults may face a variety of sleep problems that make it difficult for them to sleep well and feel rested during the day. The problems may include:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or BRIEF interruptions in breathing during sleep, occurs if the upper airway repeatedly becomes blocked. OBSA affects an estimated 20 to 60 percent of people over 65 years old.
- Restless leg syndrome or “restless legs,” which causes unwanted or frequent leg movements during sleep, can also start at any age, but it more severely affects middle-aged and older adults who may experience it more frequently and for longer periods.
- REM behavior disorder (RBD) is a sleep disorder that causes you to act out vivid dreams, such as walking in your sleep. People with RBD may have difficulty controlling their body muscles during sleep.
- The body’s internal clock controls our daily sleep-wake cycle. When your internal clocks become less efficient, falling asleep and waking up at the wrong time can disrupt your sleep. This is thus known as a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.
Apart from these, there are disorders that can affect people of any age such as:
- Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or have restless sleep. Some people have more trouble than others keeping regular sleep patterns. According to some studies, 50 to 70 percent of people over 65 years old have symptoms of insomnia.
- If a person has periodic limb movement disorder or involuntary movement of the limbs during sleep, it does not have a known cause. The condition can originate in the central nervous system, but typically there is no change in brain function or other neurologic abnormalities that can be detected.
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