July 19, 2012

Aging related diseases can be difficult to deal with on their own; however, when coupled with sleep disorders, the effects can be devastating. Mentally, lack of sleep can cause confusion, distortion of memory, depression and decreased mental capacity. Long-term insomnia affects an individual’s ability to react appropriately to stress, which increases the risk of developing mental illness. Studies report insomniacs are 3 times more likely to have a mental disorder. In the aging population, this can impact the severity of dementia and paranoia.

Physically, lack of sleep also has its effects. Commonly seen are diminished muscle strength and endurance, increased wear and tear on the vital organs, heightened sensitivity to pain, disruption of insulin production and sugar metabolism, increasing risk of diabetes and perhaps most importantly, a weakened immune system, which decreases defenses against illness.

If you believe you or an aging loved one is suffering from a sleep disorder or sleep deprivation, it is important to contact a doctor or sleep specialist for a proper diagnosis. Here are some other sleep tips that can put one on the path to a healthy, restful night’s rest:

  • Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule, including weekends
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool
  • Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and pillows
  • Use the bedroom only for sleep
  • Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before bed
  • Avoid caffeine close to bedtime
  • Avoid nicotine
  • Avoid alcohol close to bedtime

For more information about sleep disorders in the elderly and the importance of adequate sleep for the family caregiver, call Continuum at (314) 863-9912.