Posted on Oct 23, 2020 in Senior Health
Depending on age groups, Healthline recommends a varying amount of sleep. A general rule that is implied is that the number of necessary hours decreases as people get older, starting from 12-15 hours for newborns and decreasing to 7-8 hours for adults older than 65. However, the way we sleep changes as we age, and when we reach our senior years, we might spend more hours in our beds than usual.
There are numerous reasons why this happens. It’s important to understand that it can happen to any senior regardless of how active they used to be. So, let’s go through some of the potential triggers for excessive sleep among the elderly and see whether we can offer effective solutions.
The quality of our sleep changes as we age. Seniors sleep lightly, and they often wake up during the night because they need to use the bathroom or feel pain in the joints. Because of that, they feel like they need to compensate for the lost hours by staying in bed longer or taking a restorative daily nap. This is considered normal. However, when the time spent in bed is longer than the time spent awake, this becomes a problem.
The changes in sleep patterns from childhood to senior age don’t include only the ones regarding circadian rhythm. Besides the natural flow of life, many medical conditions that seniors typically develop can affect the duration and the quality of their sleep. They can include back pain, heart conditions, high blood pressure, as well as some mental health issues and conditions such as dementia, depression, and various sleep disorders. Depression, for example, can cause excessive sleepiness, while dementia can cause sleep deprivation. Typically, sleep-deprived individuals will try to make up for the lack of sleep with daytime naps.
With degenerative changes and various medical conditions comes the use of medication. A study researching the polypharmacy trends in the elderly concluded that more than 40% of seniors use multiple pharmaceuticals and that more than half of the questionnaires had contraindicated drug combinations. All drugs have side effects, and when people take more of them, they can interact in ways that amplify or change those effects. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs seniors often take, such as medications for chronic pain, high blood pressure, and anxiety can often cause excessive sleepiness.
Many things change with age, among them are mobility, social interactions and habits. The options for activities, outings, and hobbies might become limited. Many people often lose themselves in boredom and apathy after retiring. To top it all, some health conditions, such as poor eyesight, can even affect the usual “senior-friendly” activities such as reading or puzzles. With no schedule to keep or things to be excited about, many elderly create the habit of napping for the larger part of the day.
But boredom and apathy are definitely something that can be beaten. A healthy, positive lifestyle, full of enriching activities, is actually available to seniors just as it is to younger people. Being part of a community and participating in organized activities will help seniors maintain a social life, stay active, and use their time to do all the things that make them happy.
While sleep is healthy and restorative, especially for seniors, it still shouldn’t make up the majority of their day. It’s essential to find the right balance between being rested and being awake. This is, of course, easier when you know the underlying cause behind the excessive sleepiness. Depending on the potential causes that we’ve described, here are some changes that could contribute to better sleep quality:
Accepting changes and learning to live with them is very difficult, regardless of one’s age. For seniors, many things are different – health-wise, socially, professionally, and psychologically. As we age, we need to embrace these changes while at the same time putting in our best effort to maintain a happy and fulfilled life. Taking care of our physical, emotional, and mental health is a lifelong process, and it doesn’t stop at any age. Sleep is a vital part of this process.
Proper sleep is not defined only by the hours spent in bed but also by its quality, and excessive sleepiness can be a reason for concern.
If you have noticed that you need to work on other parts of your life besides sleep, maybe including a plan for assistance around the house, contact us at Landmark Senior Living. We offer assisted living and memory care and can help your loved one with anything they need from simple day to day tasks, to more in-depth assistance.