A good night’s sleep is important at any age. Sleep is a time for our body to rest and repair. However, it gets more difficult falling and remaining asleep when we get older. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, those 60 and above need slightly lesser sleep. Whatever the age, sleeping less than 5 hours a night will lead to poor health. Lack of sleep can affect concentration and memory, suppress cell repair and the immune system.
As we age,
– less melatonin is produced, so the body’s need for sleep is reduced;
– there is a reduction in slow wave or deep sleep, resulting in increased nighttime awakenings, shallow, fragmented sleep, and a higher probability of being awakened by changes in light or noise;
– our circadian rhythm (body’s internal clock) changes, and we get tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.
Typically, the aging body has more rapid sleep patterns and awakenings between sleep cycles.
Common causes of sleep problems in the elderly:
- Poor sleep habits – napping in the daytime, irregular sleep schedule, not conducive sleep environment.
- Sleep disorders – restless legs syndrome, and sleep-disordered breathing like sleep apnoea and snoring.
- Stress and anxiety.
- Pain – arthritis, back problems, heartburn, cancer pain, headache, etc.
- Medications – steroids, beta-blockers, fluoxetine, activating antidepressants, antiepileptics (for seizure disorders), dopaminergics (for Parkinson’s Disease and Restless Legs Syndrome), medicines for asthma and common cold.
- Medical conditions – pulmonary disease, heart disease, and dementia associated to Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Lack of exercise – exercise releases endorphins that improve one’s mood and reduce stress.
- Frequent urination
- Diet – eating too much in the evening causing indigestion, taking stimulants like coffee, sweets, alcohol, and nicotine.
- Change in lifestyle – retirement and the related isolation
Insufficient sleep can result in:
– Daytime snoozes
– Memory lapses
– Increase sensitivity to pain
– Lower body’s metabolic function
– Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems, breast cancer in women.
There are many factors that can affect your sleep. The underlying causes are often treatable. Your sleeping problems can affect your lifestyle.
We offer hospital-based and home-based sleep study for your convenience. Consult our senior specialist Dr YT Pang at CENTAS for an accurate diagnosis of your sleep problem. Treatment for sleep disorders results in improved physical and mental health and enhanced quality of life.