Experts Say Sleep Quality Is A Major Health Indicator Even In Old Age

November 29, 2017

Experts say sleeping difficulties in the elderly shouldn’t be written off as signs of aging, but could actually be signs of chronic insomnia. According to a recent national poll conducted by the University of Michigan, approximately 50% of Americans over the age of 65 suffer from sleeping problems. One in every three seniors also reports using sleep aids to cope with these problems.

“Good sleep protects against negative outcomes,” said Adam Spira to The Washington Post. Spira works as a sleep researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Those who sleep poorly,” he said, “are at higher risk of functional decline and depression.”

Elderly Americans require the same amount of sleep as middle-aged adults, reports the National Sleep Foundation. While newborns require between 10.5 to 18 hours of sleep per day, the average adult is recommended between seven to nine hours. Those who sleep for six hours or less are more likely to catch colds and suffer from chronic health issues.

This decrease in sleep quality among the elderly may be related to anxiety, according to Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center faculty member David N. Neubauer. Older adults are more likely to worry about their future and to suffer from personal losses, which may make sleep more difficult.

However, despite these sleep problems, experts are warning adults of all ages to be cautious of sleeping aids. According to the American Board of Internal Medicine, those who are older and use sleeping pills only sleep a little longer than those who don’t use them. The ACP also reports the drugs in sleeping pills such as diphenhydramine and doxylamine can carry dangerous risks for the elderly.

Sleeping aids are recommended to be used for only four to five weeks. Should a person’s insomnia fail to dissipate after 10 days of using sleep aids, the FDA advises that person to seek a medical evaluation.

The ACP also recommends cognitive behavioral therapy to help treat chronic insomnia. Behavioral changes can be made to help improve a person’s sleep and reduce the need for sleep aids, which can have adverse side effects.

These behavioral changes include using the bed for sleeping only, not going to bed unless tired, and waking up at the same time every day. A consistent wake-up time is critical, says Neubauer. It’s this time that will help set the body’s circadian rhythm.

“Getting up at about the same time each morning stabilizes our internal rhythm and makes it more likely that we will be able to fall asleep eight hours earlier,” Neubauer said.

Bringing certain plants into the home have also been known to improve sleep. Up to 69% of Americans report their mood improving after seeing or smelling flowers. Plants such as aloe vera and English ivy have also been known to improve air quality whereas lavender can reduce anxiety. Even those living in small spaces such as an assisted living home can grow these plants on a two to four tiered metal plant stand.

However, before attempting to cure sleep difficulties on your own, Neubauer suggests talking to a health professional.

“We need to emphasize … sleep as a major indicator of health,” said Michael Smith of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “And doctors should recommend treatment and sleep clinics to patients who are having problems.”

Share This Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *