Sleep Disorders

On average, 20-40% of all adults have insomnia in the course of any year. Lack of sleep can cause numerous health issues, and if not treated, it can become very detrimental to the health of you or your loved one.

Some people don’t even know they have sleep disorders. Issues like sleep apnea occur during sleep, and many don’t even realize there’s an issue. Over 50% of all apnea cases are diagnosed in people aged 40 and over. If you or your senior consistently has trouble falling asleep, or often feel tired despite getting a full night’s rest, it might be time to consult a doctor. Sleeping is how your body recovers, and if your body is unable to recover, other health issues could be in the near future.

Symptoms of Sleep Disorders

Some sleep disorders are harder to spot than others, so it’s important to be aware of what to look for. Some symptoms can be easily identified by yourself, but others pertaining to sleep apnea, might be harder to identify. Either way, acknowledging that your sleeping patterns have not been up to par can help your health in the long run. A few symptoms to look out for are stated below:

  • Still feeling tired after getting a full night’s sleep
  • Experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness
  • General lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood and behavior disturbances such as irritability, aggression, and impulsive behaviors
  • Decreased performance at work or school
  • Troubles in personal and professional relationships

Other symptoms relating to the sleep disorders like Narcolepsy and Sleep Apnea include:

  • Sleep paralysis
  • Hallucinations
  • Trouble staying asleep

Causes of Sleep Disorders

There are many factors that come into play when trying to figure out what causes sleep disorders. For some, it’s a simple case of genetics, or physical make-up. For others, it’s the daily toll of a stressful day wreaking havoc on your internal clock. Here are some of the most common causes of sleep disorders.

Respiratory Problems

Something as simple as a common cold can have a big impact on your ability to get a good night’s rest. A stuffed up nose or sinus can block airways, making your body work harder to pump oxygen, and causing your body to remain “on alert” for the rest of the night. Severe allergies can also have a similar effect.

Physical Abnormalities

Some people are actually just born with physical issues that can affect their sleeping patterns. Narrow throat and nose passages can greatly reduce the amount of oxygen you take in and take out, and even enlarged tonsils can cause sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.


Nocturia, or frequent urination, causes you to wake up throughout the night to use the bathroom. Continuous disruptions like these will not allow your body to get into a continuous state of sleep.

Stress and Anxiety

A stressful job or home life can even play a role in sleep disorders. If you or your loved one is constantly under stress, your body does not know how to “power down” for the night, causing a variety of sleep related issues that could have a serious impact on your health.

Diagnoses of Sleep Disorders

A doctor will first perform a traditional physical and ask questions relating to the symptoms of your or your senior. If they do not discover a diagnosis at that time, they may try a few other sleep tests to determine the issue.


This is a sleep study that examines, among other things, oxygen levels, body movements, and brain waves to determine how they disrupt sleep.

EEG (Electroencophalogram)

This test will study brainwaves as you sleep and doctors will monitor the results to detect abnormalities.

Blood Tests

The final test they might do is a simple blood test to examine genetic make-up. Like previously stated, some sleep disorders can be passed on through generations, so examining your family history could help them to discover these problems.

Treatment for Sleep Disorders

There are numerous ways to treat sleep disorders, and most of them are really simple. Changes in lifestyle or some home remedies can often do the trick, and if those don’t work, there are a few over-the-counter medications that can help as well.

Medication/Medical Treatments

  • Sleeping pills
  • Melatonin supplements
  • Allergy or cold medication
  • Medications for any underlying health issues
  • Breathing device or surgery (usually for sleep apnea)
  • A dental guard (usually for teeth grinding)

Lifestyle Changes

  • Incorporating more vegetables, turkey, and fish into your diet
  • Reducing sugar intake
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Creating and sticking to a regular sleeping schedule
  • Drinking less water or caffeine before bedtime
  • Decreasing tobacco and alcohol use
  • Eat smaller, low carbohydrate meals before bedtime

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Frequently Asked Questions

I just turned 63 and I can’t seem to fall asleep or stay asleep as well as I used to. Do you have any recommendations for what I can do to treat this that doesn't involve medication?

Sleep disorders are a common problem in elderly adults. To help combat this issue, most doctors will recommend a number of treatments. Here are a few: avoid large meals before bedtime, avoid stimulants starting mid-afternoon, do not take naps, patriciate in regular exercise, have a consistent bedtime schedule, and avoid using the bed for things other than sleep and sexual activity. 

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Our grandmother’s assisted living home recently told us that she is waking at night and having intense night terrors. What is the cause of this?

Oh my! It’s possible she might be suffering from a REM sleep disorder, something that causes people to act out their dreams. Although this is very rare, such sleep disorders may also cause intense and terrifying experiences at night. In some cases, people can become violent, kicking and flailing in their surroundings. It’s best to consult a professional before making any changes, but there are some medications that can be useful!

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