Sleep Problems in the Elderly – Birmingham, MI

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On March 10, 2013, Posted by , In Caregivers,Dementia,Sleep Apnea, By ,, , With Comments Off on Sleep Problems in the Elderly – Birmingham, MI

People of all ages can have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or have poor quality sleep (insomnia). There are many possible causes including stress, changes in schedule, diet, or as a side effect of medicines. As people age, they generally spend less time in the deepest stages of sleep. After age 40, sleep becomes lighter and it is easier to wake up. Sleep is considered a problem only when the person is not satisfied with his or her sleep, when the person feels drowsy or has other related symptoms the following day, or when the sleep problem suggests a serious underlying illness.

Sometimes making a few simple lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise during the day, is all that is necessary for a person to begin sleeping soundly. At other times a health problem such as stress, hormonal changes, poor nutrition, or drinking alcoholic beverages may cause insomnia.

The most common reason for a sudden change in sleep patterns is emotional stress or nervousness. Depression can keep people up and awakes them at early hours.

Dementia frequently alters sleep/wake patterns.
A person with dementia may sleep during the daytime then stay awake and even wander at night. Medicines such as diuretics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicines, painkillers, and drugs for Parkinson’s disease can also affect sleep patterns.

Sometimes people show odd behaviors while sleeping, which may be noticed only by a spouse or companion. Behaviors such as moving the arms or legs, kicking, loud snoring, or choking sounds are signs of possible sleep disorders. These should be brought to the doctor’s attention. One disorder to be concerned about is sleep apnea, a condition in which people briefly stop breathing while asleep. This causes them to wake up many times during the night. Sleep apnea can cause fatigue the next day and is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and heart failure.

Your goals are to:

  • Encourage a set routine for going to bed and waking up
  • Check all medicines to see if they could affect sleep
  • Check the diet and use of caffeine and alcohol to see if they might be affecting sleep
  • Make the bedroom safe and comfortable

When To Get Professional Help:

Call the doctor or nurse immediately or go to the emergency room if any of the following symptoms occur

Sleep emergencies are not common. However, the following situation has been known to happen at night or bedtime:

  • A sudden change in mood.
    If the person you are caring for wakes suddenly during the night and acts agitated or confused, it is important to call a doctor right away. This could be a sign of a serious medical illness or a side effect of a prescription drug.
    Call the doctor or nurse during office hours to discuss the following problems
  • Sleep is not satisfying
    Ask the older person to explain what about sleep is not satisfying.
  • Sleep or fatigue cuts into daytime activities
    Falling asleep during quiet time, such as watching TV is normal, but falling asleep in the middle of a conversation is not. Excessive daytime sleepiness is abnormal. Falling asleep while driving is abnormal and dangerous.
  • You see or hear strange behaviors during sleep
    Loud snoring, choking sounds, short periods when breathing stops, gasping, and leg and arm movements during sleep could all be signs of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

Know the answers to the following questions before calling the doctor:

  • How long has sleeping been a problem?
  • What other medical conditions does the older person have?
  • What medicines does he or she take? (Include prescription and non-prescription drugs.)
  • Could emotional stress be affecting sleep, such as the recent death of a family member?
  • Is he or she feeling sad, depressed, or anxious?
  • Is snoring a problem? If yes, do you notice daytime drowsiness and/or choking, gasping sounds during sleep?
  • Are there complaints of indigestion, chest pain, or shortness of breath when the older person wakes up during the night?
  • Is there evidence of use of alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine?



Contact Pure Home Care Services at (586) 293-2457 today!  If you live in Birmingham or the surrounding area, we can help you care for your loved ones.

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