Sleep disorders are observed in 35% of older people, with more than 70% of them regularly taking sleeping pills. However, you need to understand that this is an extreme measure, which is resorted to only when other methods of dealing with somnological disorders do not give results. We will find out how to deal with insomnia in old age with safe methods, and consider the most harmless sleeping pills recommended in cases where you cannot do without them.
Normal physiological changes in old age
Sleep disorders are not essential companions for older people, however, they are directly related to the changes in the body that occur as we age. However, one should distinguish between insomnia, which negatively affects human health and well-being , and natural physiological changes. These include:
increased sleep sensitivity;
decrease in the duration of night rest;
shift of the biological clock, earlier morning awakening.
All these changes cannot be attributed to violations.
Studies have shown that every 10 years, starting in middle age, men sleep approximately 27 minutes at night. More than 50% of elderly people wake up before 7 am, about 25% – earlier than 5 hours.
Age-related changes lead to the fact that the body begins to produce less hormones. In particular, the synthesis of melatonin, which is responsible for circadian rhythms, maintaining immunity, reducing stress levels, and slowing down the aging process, decreases. It is because of the drop in its concentration in the blood after 60 years that difficulties in falling asleep, shallow sleep and earlier rise are observed.
Sleep Disorders in the Elderly
Consider sleep disorders that are not normal and natural because they significantly impair the quality of life of older people. Most frequent complaints:
difficulty falling asleep;
superficial interrupted sleep (one of the manifestations of insomnia );
waking up too early with the inability to fall asleep again;
anxiety when waking up;
a state of weakness and fatigue after a night’s rest;
Insomnia is divided into 2 types:
Transient. Has predisposing factors (the most common is stress). The peculiarity of this insomnia is that it goes away on its own. The body recovers within 8-14 days.
Chronic. With this type of insomnia, a person regularly experiences sleep problems for several months and even years. If the condition lasts more than 4 weeks, then it becomes chronic.
It is imperative to get rid of insomnia. Chronic sleep disturbance leads not only to physical but also psychological disorders. Insomnia provokes a deterioration in mental abilities, impaired concentration, affects physical activity, a person quickly gets tired. Lack of sleep leads to a breakdown, nerve resources are depleted, the condition of the skin and internal organs deteriorates. Insomnia can lead to depressive syndrome.
Before you start fighting insomnia, you need to establish the cause of its occurrence as accurately as possible. In most cases , removing the root cause is enough to significantly improve sleep quality and well-being. Eliminating symptoms and manifestations with medication can only aggravate the situation.
Causes of sleep disorders in old age
Knowing why sleep disorders occur in old age is very important. Having correctly identified the cause of insomnia, there are chances to deal with it quite easily.
Possible causes of insomnia in older people:
Drinking alcoholic beverages. It is believed that alcohol is relaxing and promotes sleep. In fact, it stimulates the activity of the central nervous system and interferes with proper rest.
Congested stomach. It is not recommended to eat heavy food at night. Meat, pasta, bread, cookies, sweets are prohibited. Insomnia often overtakes those who like to eat at night.
Various diseases. Many pathologies that are often found in elderly people, especially those that are accompanied by pain and discomfort, do not allow you to sleep normally. This list includes asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, heartburn. In this case, it is useless to fight insomnia, which is only a consequence of other problems. You need to be treated for the disease that provokes it, choosing a therapy regimen with a doctor.
Sleep habits that are not useful. This includes erratic mode, as well as the presence of interfering factors such as lights on, TV on, noise. It is important to remember that for a good sleep you need darkness, silence, and special daily rituals aimed at relaxation and tranquility will facilitate falling asleep.
Insomnia is more likely to bother those who disrupt the daily routine.
Lack of physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle disrupts the severity of sleep and wakefulness cycles. Because of this, during the daytime, you often want to sleep, and at night – vice versa. Light gymnastics, walks, yoga will help.
Menopause. Leads to increased sweating, some women have trouble sleeping. It is recommended to stick to a diet, in the afternoon – to do simple exercises.
Stress, depression, increased anxiety. They are caused by both cardinal changes in life, including tragic ones (death of a loved one), and everyday trifles, which are considered more significant in the life of a lonely person. An understanding interlocutor to whom you can speak out will help here.
Lack of social activity. Often a person feels unclaimed, and he is disturbed by thoughts about this problem. It is recommended that you find your favorite activity and focus on it. Retirement does not mean the end of an active life, it is the best time for self-education, participation in social groups and organizations.
Concomitant sleep disorders. Apnea, snoring, restless legs syndrome are often troublesome for the elderly. An appeal to a specialist is required.
Lack of sunlight. It promotes the production of melatonin, which is responsible for the sleep-wake cycles. You need to try to be in the fresh air for at least two hours a day, keep the curtains open at home.
Self-treatment or exceeding the dosage of prescribed drugs. Medications often cause side effects, including nausea, vomiting, loss of energy, and insomnia. If such disorders are detected, it is necessary to consult a doctor.
Tips for Better Sleep
The following recommendations will help you to improve the night’s rest for an elderly person and get rid of insomnia.
Follow your daily routine and get ready for a night’s rest at the same time, just like waking up in the morning.
Maintain a more active lifestyle, but do not overexert yourself before bed. Easy charging is helpful. Exercise and walking help the body produce essential hormones.
Avoid stress. It is important to focus on positive emotions so that it will be easier to relax.
The best sleep is early. Do not restrain yourself when the urge to go to bed arises in the evening.
Try to give up bad habits. The nicotine in cigarettes irritates brain cells. If you can’t quit, you need to refrain from smoking at least a few hours before bedtime.
Limit your intake of caffeine and drinks that contain it.
Avoid drinking a lot of fluids at night to avoid the urge to urinate, which will interrupt sleep.
Do not eat heavy and spicy foods in the evening, but do not go to bed on an empty stomach. If you want to have a snack before bedtime, it is recommended to prefer yogurt, cereals, warm milk, light biscuits.
Avoid taking sleeping pills. They have many side effects, in addition, after a short period of time the body gets used to them, and they stop helping.
Medicines are prescribed if gentle methods and homemade remedies are useless.
Elderly people are contraindicated:
Barbiturates. Drugs in this group cause side effects such as nervousness, confusion, and there is a possibility that breathing stops during sleep.
Tranquilizers. They have a powerful effect, cause irreversible changes in the work of the central nervous system.
Acceptable drugs (only as prescribed by a doctor):
Benzodiazepines. They have a powerful sedative effect, but they can cause migraines, dizziness, nightmares, and disorders of the central nervous system. They are prescribed only in short courses, as they are addictive. In addition, they relax muscles, which can lead to falls and injuries in elderly people.
Antihistamines. These products contain diphenhydramine, so it is important to drink them at the correct dosage. Reviews of antihistamines vary, but most elderly patients take these drugs normally.
Antidepressants. They are prescribed in the case when insomnia is associated with depressive conditions.
When deciding what to take for insomnia, it is important to remember that almost all sleeping pills have contraindications and extensive lists of side effects. That is why it is not recommended to “prescribe” yourself even OTC drugs on your own.
The safest are considered:
herbal preparations such as Persen , Novopassit , Dormiplant ;
tinctures of soothing herbs – motherwort, valerian, peony, hawthorn;
homeopathic agents such Nevohel , Knott , Passidorm .
Before taking this or that medicine, you need to consult with a specialist, find out the cause, and identify possible concomitant diseases. Self-selection of sleeping pills leads to poisoning and disturbance of consciousness. The medication for insomnia is prescribed by the doctor, taking into account the age and history of the patient.
The remedies offered by traditional medicine work mildly and improve the sleep of an elderly person without side effects.
The medicinal infusion can be made at home: take 1 valerian root, rinse, pour 200 ml of boiling water, wait 20 minutes and drink.
Needle oil will help improve sleep, its aroma relaxes and helps to tune in a positive mood (alternatively, hop cones).
Decoctions and infusions of chamomile, mint, lemon balm help to calm and quickly fall asleep.
An affordable sleep aid is a sugar cube dipped in lavender oil.
You can breathe in drops of valerian, they will soothe and have a relaxing effect.
A simple, affordable and pleasant remedy is honey. Stirred in a glass of warm water or milk, it will have a mild hypnotic effect.
And finally, a few more tips.
In order not to suffer from insomnia , you can read an interesting book, it will help to distract from negative thoughts. It is recommended to choose dark bedding, so it will be easier for the body to adjust to the night. Healthy sleep is an integral part of life at any age; it restores the body, helping to overcome stress and dangerous illnesses.