Insomnia can bother people of any age, but it's especially troublesome for older people. Many seniors have health issues, and not getting adequate sleep can intensify chronic pain symptoms or other medical problems. Plus, not sleeping can make people irritable and more prone to accidents such as falling, which can be life altering for seniors. If you're a caregiver, here are some tips to help older people get better sleep:
1. Talk to the doctor
Some medications carry undesirable side effects, such as loss of sleep. A senior's doctor can explain which of his or her medicines may be causing insomnia and alter treatment plans to improve the person's sleep. AARP notes the following medications can cause insomnia:
- Alpha-blockers commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Examples include Flomax, Minipress, Rapaflo, Uroxatral, Hytrin and Cardura.
- Beta-blockers also address high blood pressure and may also treat abnormal heart rhythms. Examples include Lopressor, Toprol, Betapace, Timoptic, Inderal, Coreg and Tenormin.
- SSRI antidepressants address severe depression. Lexapro, Zoloft, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil and Pexeva are commonly prescribed to seniors with this mental condition.
- Corticosteroids like Medrol and cortisone treat inflammation caused by gout, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
- ACE inhibitors are given to seniors with high blood pressure and heart failure. Monopril, Zestril, Univasc, Mavik, Aceon and Accupril are a few examples of this medication.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors are prescribed to older people who are experiencing memory loss or dementia. Exelon, Razadyne and Aricept are typical brand names a senior may take.
- Angiotensin II-receptor blockers or ARBS address heart failure in patients with kidney disease or diabetes. These may include Avapro, Cozaar, Diovan, Atacand and Micardis.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements that may address joint pain and inflammation caused by arthritis and osteoarthritis. They may cause insomnia as well as headaches that lead to further sleeplessness.
- Second-generation (nonsedatig) H1 antagonists are antihistamines that help seniors with allergies. Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec are common treatments that seniors may find interrupt their sleeping habits.
- Statins like Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor treat high cholesterol. Their side effects, like muscle pain, can cause insomnia.
2. Encourage the senior to take naps
Older people often have fewer obligations than they did at a younger age. Because they are retired, many have a lot of free time during the day. This offers the perfect opportunity for older people to catch up on some sleep. Make sure the senior's assisted living apartment has ample curtains to block out the midday sunlight and allow the resident to nap. Just ensure he or she doesn't miss a meal because of oversleeping!
3. Follow a schedule
Assisted living communities typically follow schedules for eating and medication times. This can be very helpful to a senior who has trouble sleeping because his or her day is structured. Eating at the same time daily can help the human body fall into a pattern of healthy sleep. Regulated blood sugar levels are responsible for that, as well as circadian rhythm, or the 24-hour life cycle of most living beings. Even drinking a cup of tea right before bed each night can help a senior calm his or her body and realize it's time to sleep.