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Impact Of Sleep Disturbances On the Elderly

Updated: Dec 4, 2020


Is your loved one experiencing abnormal sleeping patterns? Are they sleeping more throughout the day or having difficulty sleeping at night? Are they sleeping more or less hours than they used to?


Lack of sleep can be rather damaging for elders and can have a variety of negative effects on their physical and mental well-being.


For example, lack of sleep can cause confusion and mental cloudiness, distortion of memory, depression, and decreased mental capacity. These are all things that can naturally come as an individual ages, but lack of sleep can make the outcome more severe. It can also cause long-term complications such as affecting how one reacts to stress and can make someone more susceptible to mental illness such as anxiety. This can also make one more paranoid and prone to dementia.


When taking care of an aging loved one, it can be difficult to know how much sleep they should be getting and what is considered normal. However, being aware of it is crucial in order to detect any possible sleep disorders in loved ones and making sure that they receive the proper care if needed.


Being aware of abnormal sleep patterns can also be helpful in deciding when and if your loved one would benefit from Homecare services.

This article will discuss what to look out for in terms of sleep and what can be done in abnormal sleep is observed.


What are some common sleeping problems?


As they age, your loved one might experience sleep changes such as:

  • Getting tired early in the day

  • Waking up very early

  • Waking up in the middle of the night without being able to fall asleep again

  • Having insomnia, which makes it hard for them to fall asleep at all

What is a Normal Amount of Sleep for an Aging Person?


It is important to keep in mind that what may seem as normal signs of aging in regards to changes in sleep patterns could actually be signs of sleeping disorders or could be caused by outside factors.


Since retirees tend to wake up earlier in the morning and nap in the afternoon, it may seem that they do not need as much sleep as the average adult. However, it is recommended that they obtain at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.


If you notice changes in your loved ones that could be related to sleep but you are not able to be around to monitor their sleep patterns or help them do things to achieve better sleep, having an in home caregiver around could be of great value.


Common Reasons for Sleep Disturbances


Many aging people may experience changes in their sleeping patterns due to a variety of factors such as:


  • Pain or medical conditions

  • Medication

  • Stress

  • Anxiety (click to learn more about anxiety in aging loved ones)

  • Lack of exercise

Hormonal changes can also cause problems sleeping, such as the fact that your body produces less melatonin as you age, which is the natural hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

Some health conditions can also make it harder to sleep , such as diabetes and prostate issues, as they can cause someone to have to urinate several times during the night, which is especially disruptive if they have trouble falling asleep again after waking.

These are some common sleeping disorders to be aware of:


  • Sleep apnea: With this disorder, a person’s breathing abnormally stops and starts while sleeping. One can stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time, and can wake up when this happens due to gasping or snorting when they start to breathe again. This can happen hundreds of times per night and can be dangerous if one stops breathing for too long. People who experience this disorder often snore loudly. If your loved one lives alone or is alone during the night and they are experiencing this, they should receive a medical examination. It would also be very helpful to have a private caregiver monitor them during the night in case they stop breathing for too long.


  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): This condition occurs when one has leg pain or discomfort when sitting or laying down. This can make it hard to sleep as one’s leg feels like it won't stay still.


  • Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD): This is a condition in which one kicks their legs while they sleep. This can cause daytime fatigue in those who experience it. Also, those who experience this are often not aware of it. This is another instance in which having a companion caretaker would be helpful to let them know this is happening to them.

Tips For Better Sleep


  • Staying active during the day would be very helpful. However, exercise too close to bedtime would actually have the opposite effect and make it harder to sleep. In this instance, an in home companion caregiver could be of assistance to go on walks or do some exercises and be there to monitor in case they fall or have an injury.

  • Making sure the bedroom is dark and quiet is also very helpful. If too much light comes into the room, using a sleep mask or blackout curtains would be things to try.

  • Maintaining a routine and going to sleep at the same time every day could also assist in better sleep. A home health caregiver could also be of assistance in helping them create a routine and letting them know when they should go to sleep.

  • Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially during the evening.

  • Going to a different room if they can't fall asleep instead of tossing and turning in bed.

  • Consulting a doctor if nothing else helps and seeing if any of the medications they are on might be causing sleep disturbances.

Here at Unified Pledge , we know that it can be difficult to know when a loved one would benefit and what type of care would be better suited for them. We offer a free consultation to review your situation and provide information on our services.


Hiring professionals from Unified Pledge comes with the following advantages:


Level II FBI background checks of all staff

Driving history checks

Companions, health aides, LPNs are our direct employees and not independent contractors

Constant communication to patients, family, and care team

Registered Nurse supervision is ongoing with every care plan

Contact us today for a free consultation by Supervisory Nurse at 561-910-8770.



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