Welcome to the Patient Education Library of Texas Medical Institute
Older Adults and Sleep Problems
In a way, your body goes on “auto-pilot” while you sleep. Your brain regulates automatic functions for you, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. The average adult needs about eight hours of healthy sleep. After the age of 60, most older adults need only about six hours of sleep, although some researchers debate this. Although sleep is a complex process that is not fully understood, it is known that a good night’s sleep is important for optimal health and functioning.
Am I at Risk
Sleep problems for older adults are common. Some of the risk factors include:
_____ Increasing age is associated with an increase in sleep problems.
_____ Medical conditions can disrupt sleep. Common causes include anxiety, depression, hormonal changes, alcoholism, chronic pain, thyroid conditions, heart failure, frequent urination during the night, GERD, and asthma.
_____ Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, can interrupt a good night’s sleep.
_____ Short-term stressful events increase the risk of sleep problems.
_____ Depression, anxiety, and long-term stress can contribute to sleep problems.
_____ Alcoholism or substance abuse increases the risk of sleep disorders.
_____ Caffeine products, such as coffee, tea, and soda pop, are stimulants and may make it difficult to fall asleep if you drink them too close to bedtime.
_____ Alzheimer’s disease or organic brain syndrome increases the risk for sleep disorders.
_____ Smoking cigarettes and using tobacco products can interfere with sleep because these products are stimulants and may increase alertness.
_____ A lack of regular exercise increases the risk of sleep problems in older adults.
_____ Nocturia, the need to wake up and urinate numerous times during the night, interrupts a restful sleep. For men, an enlarged prostate gland is a common cause of frequent urination during the night.
_____ Napping or sleeping too much during the day can contribute to poor sleep at night.
ComplicationsLack of sleep can cause problems with thought and behavior. You may find it more difficult than before to solve problems, pay attention, remember things, and perform your daily tasks at home or at work. You may feel moody and irritable. A lack of sleep can contribute to depression, and insomnia can be a symptom of depression. Researchers are finding that a lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of injury and car crashes.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.