Sleep has an immense importance in our routine lives and it is known that you might survive without eating or drinking but you will never survive if you are sleepless. Quality of sleep is important at every stage of life but it is important for children and elderly to get the best sleep because of their reduced bodily functions. We just assume that disturbed sleep patterns are caused by old age while it is not always the case. Contrary to the popular belief, it is not necessary for older people to have severe sleep problems in old age. However, sleep problems do occur in majority of the older adults.
Quality of sleep keeps deteriorating as we grow older and there are a lot of reasons behind. Sleep problems in the elderly can be caused by physiological changes or psychological changes or even other medical conditions related to old age. To solve the problems related to sleep one should keep the record of sleep patterns. If you are a caregiver or an older adult, then you should keep track of your sleep-awake cycle as well as insomnia, dementia and sleep apnea.
Find out Your Sleep Pattern and Problems
First of all, you need to find out how much affect is on your sleep, you should keep a diary and keep record of your every night sleep. The first and foremost step to solve a problem is to identify it completely. So you should keep journal and write every single sleep related habits and patterns in this journal. This journal does not only include your habits of night time but also write your daytime habits. It will help you find out your effects of sleep on your body during the day.
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You should have following things written in your diary in order to get a clear picture as well as you can easily explain it to your sleep doctor. First of all, note down your timings of going to bed and waking up then number of hours. You should also be clear that going to bed and actually falling asleep are not the same things. You should also note the time between going to bed and actually falling asleep. Your moods and eating habits before sleep, type of drugs you are taking and any specific life events which are affecting your mood.
Sleep Problems in the Elderly
Sleep problems in the elderly are mostly related to circadian rhythm which is the biological clock of our body. Circadian rhythm plays crucial role in our sleep-awake cycle and your whole body system is disturbed if your circadian rhythms are not right. Our body’s biological clock is affected mainly by light as it is the cue to action for our circadian rhythm. Darkness produces a hormone known as melatonin which helps you sleep better. This is one of the reasons that quality of our sleep is not as amazing in the day as it happens during nighttime. Disturbed circadian rhythms cease the production of melatonin and you are likely to feel disturbed and depressed if your circadian rhythms are disturbed.
Causes of Disturbed Circadian Rhythm
Some of the problems which cause disturbances in circadian and in turn it changes our sleep pattern and make us cranky are given below:
Night Shift Workers
If you are a night shift worker or you work early shifts or even you work on rotation you might have faced this problem. Our circadian rhythm gets disturbed when you don’t have a specific time for sleep or awake. This loss is not even compensated if you increase your quantity of sleep. Your body’s clock is set on a specific time and it needs to be shut down on a proper time and wake up accordingly. It also affects your performance at work and makes you less productive during your shifts. One should take measures to solve the problem and try avoiding shift changes frequently.
This is not much serious problem and it is rather temporary. It happens when you cross a time zone to get to the next one. Most of the time jetlag is gone in as many days as you have crossed time zone. For example, if you have crossed four time zones, your jetlag will be gone in 4 days. You might feel sleepy during the day, fatigued and cranky most of the time. Stomach problems are associated with jetlag. It is also said that travelling to east causes most awful jetlag than travelling to a western country. However, it is mostly faced by travelers and do not invite much trouble.
Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
It is a sleep disorder which makes you go to sleep late night and wake up late. It is not by choice and most of the time you can’t control your sleepiness. This is mostly a teenager problem because they face this problem more often than the elderly. However, if an elderly faces this problem he/she should visit a sleep clinic and talk to a doctor as soon as possible.
Sleep apnea is most commonly known as snoring and it is one of the most commonly occurring sleep problems in the elderly. In some cases, you have trouble breathing due to sleep apnea and it causes regular awakening during night sleep. It decreases the quality of sleep significantly and one should visit a doctor if one has this problem.
Restless Leg Syndrome
The uncontrollable urge to move your feet during night is known as restless leg syndrome (RLS). It is also a most commonly occurring problem in the elderly. You can visit a doctor for your problem and you can also use self-help solutions for this problem.
What can you do to help yourself with sleep problems?
It is good to seek professional help if you are facing any sleep problems but there are few self-help remedies which you can do to help improve your quality of sleep.
- Make a sleep schedule and stick to it.
- Improve your eating habits and do not take caffeine, nicotine on any other substance which could be harmful for peaceful sleep.
- Keep your room dark and peaceful
Sleep disturbance is a major problem and it affects all the domains of your life and health. However, you can control this problem by simply changing a few habits in your lifestyle and sticking to healthy habits. If the problem still persists talk to a sleep doctor and sleep tight.