July 12, 2012

The National Sleep Foundation has reported that 24% of people aged 65-84 have been diagnosed with four or more medical conditions. In general, people with poor health or chronic medical conditions have more sleep disorders. The study demonstrated this by reporting that 80% of the people in the study who had medical conditions also reported having a sleep problem. While a chronic medical condition itself can contribute to sleep deprivation, so too can sleep deprivation exacerbate the symptoms of a chronic medical condition.

Continuum wants to raise awareness about how important it is to recognize and treat sleep disorders in the senior population. Recognizing sleep disorders associated with aging can immediately help improve quality of life, both mentally and physically. A good night’s sleep can go a long way towards increasing strength, lifting mood, and increasing the body’s ability to fight infection. The following represent the most common sleep disorders affecting seniors:

  • Insomnia – According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 44% of older persons experience one or more of the nighttime symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights per week or more. Insomnia is often related to an underlying cause such as a medical or psychiatric condition. If you are wondering if a loved one is suffering from insomnia, look out for symptoms like excessive daytime sleepiness and difficulty concentrating.
  • Snoring/Sleep Apnea – Loud snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and is associated with high blood pressure and other health problems. With OSA, breathing stops – sometimes for as long as 10-60 seconds – and the amount of oxygen in the blood drops. OSA can be a sign that there are other things going on as well. In fact, HealthCentral.com reports one of the characteristics of dementia is sleep disordered breathing. More than 80 percent of dementia patients have sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea puts a person at risk for conditions such as headaches, memory loss, depression and cardiovascular disease, among others.
  • Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD), Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), and Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder (ASP) are other common causes of sleep problems in the aging population. On the flip side, existing conditions can also affect good sleep. Diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s and their associated symptoms commonly cause problems sleeping.

Sleep deprivation symptoms mirror other common signs of aging or disease, making it difficult to notice or diagnose a sleep disorder. Having a professional assessment and respite care during evening hours can go a long way in helping families get to the root of a hidden problem. After all, keeping an aging loved one at home is about improving quality of life. If you have any questions or would like to speak with us to learn more about sleep disorders associated with aging, please contact Continuum at (314) 863-9912 for the best home health St. Louis, MO seniors can get.