It’s no surprise that, as we age, certain human functions become more difficult. Things like walking, driving, and even writing can become harder with age. Sleep is another thing that some seniors struggle with. There are quite a few sleep disorders that may prevent seniors from getting a good night’s sleep. Read along as we provide an overview of the most common elderly sleep disorders.
Common Elderly Sleep Disorders
While insomnia can occur in individuals of any age, it’s common for seniors as well. Individuals with insomnia have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Symptoms of insomnia in seniors can include the following:
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Waking up not feeling rested
These symptoms can have other effects, too, like fatigue and irritability. Seniors are at a higher risk for developing insomnia since it’s common for older adults to have medical conditions that make it harder to sleep, like arthritis or back pain. For any elderly adult who has sleep difficulties three or more times a week, it’s beneficial to see a medical professional.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which an individual briefly stops breathing during sleep. These moments can occur repeatedly throughout the night. Simply put, it’s as if the brain “forgets” to tell the muscles to breathe. The risk of developing sleep apnea increases with age, so seniors should be alert, especially if they have ever suffered a heart attack or stroke. Sleep apnea can also be caused by Parkinson’s disease. Seniors should watch out for signs of sleep apnea, like waking up feeling short of breath or having a headache upon waking up.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Restless leg syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in the legs accompanied by a powerful urge to move them. The urge is usually worse when one is relaxed or trying to sleep. While RLS can occur at any age, it’s typically more severe in middle or old age. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for RLS, but there are different medications that can help seniors to manage their symptoms. Older adults with RLS may be at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, or diabetes, so it’s best to seek medical attention as soon as symptoms develop.
Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder
The body’s natural sleep-wake pattern is known as the circadian rhythm. When this rhythm is disrupted, it can cause symptoms ranging from daytime fatigue to depression. There are different types of circadian rhythm sleep disorders, but most seniors with a disorder usually have one or more of these symptoms:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Trouble staying asleep
- Not feeling well-rested or refreshed after a night’s sleep
There are different types of medical conditions that can increase a senior’s risk for developing a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. These include congestive heart failure, chronic pain syndromes, dementia, or hyperthyroidism. Additionally, certain medications can make sleep more difficult which, in turn, could develop into a sleep disorder. Seniors, be sure to stay alert of disruptions during sleep!
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep behavior disorder is a condition in which individuals act out dreams during sleep. Seniors with REM sleep behavior disorder may talk, shout, kick, or jump in response to dream imagery. The disorder is more common in older adults, especially in men over 50. Additionally, seniors with dementia, whether they live independently or in a nursing home, are especially prone to experiencing REM sleep behavior disorder. In most cases, medication can successfully manage this condition. Seniors with REM sleep behavior disorder should talk to their doctor to discuss the best medication options.
With any of these elderly sleep disorders, it’s essential to seek medical help sooner rather than later. Left untreated, a sleep disorder could turn into a more serious problem.
How many of these elderly sleep disorders are you familiar with? Let us know in the comments section below!