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What Are Common Causes Of Insomnia In The Elderly

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Some Of The Common Causes Of Insomnia In Elderly Adults

4 Common Causes of Insomnia

Sleep disorders are, unfortunately, very common. Many individuals struggle with various sleep disturbances. Insomnia is one sleep disorder that affects people on a regular basis. Sadly, this problem impacts the daily lives of individuals all over the world, from different walks of life, and within various age groups. Since insomnia affects so many different types of people, older adults are not exempt. In fact, many seniors deal with the effects of insomnia every single day.

There are many different causes of insomnia in elderly adults. They vary from case to case. But, if you have an older loved one, it can be helpful to understand why and how insomnia may be affecting him or her. Sleep disorders like this often produce negative effects and cause many changes in an individuals life. So, as someone who cares for an older individual who is suffering from insomnia, its important to be aware of how the disorder is impacting your aging family member.

Prevalence And Diagnosis Of Insomnia

Sleep changes with aging. Specifically, babies sleep between 10 to 14 hours per day while the recommended sleep duration for older adults is between 7â8 hours daily.1 Many older adults experience dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of sleep even with adequate opportunity to sleep when this is accompanied by daytime impairment over a period of time, they may meet criteria for insomnia disorder . Compared to younger adults, the prevalence of insomnia is higher in middle and older adults.2,3 and increases with age. Up to 50% of older adults report insomnia symptoms however, this does not mean that insomnia is a normal part of aging.4

The Connection Between Insomnia And The Elderly

Aging is a natural part of life. And with it, comes countless changes both mentally and physically. Older adults are at increased risk of developing a myriad of health issues and medical conditions as their body becomes increasingly weak and less resilient. One such condition is insomnia. While most sleep troubles are triggered by something else, age alone puts you at an increased risk of experiencing sleep disturbances and changes in your sleep patterns. For example, elderly individuals are at increased risk of developing sleep disorders and RLS, a leading cause of insomnia. Your circadian rhythm also changes as you get older, impacting how long and how well you sleep. Many seniors also take medications that treat certain ailments but can cause increased sleep disturbances.

Here well take a closer look at why elderly individuals are at increased risk of developing insomnia and ways to help ease symptoms.


There is Hope for Elderly Adults with Insomnia

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Common Causes Of Insomnia And Sleep Problems In Older Adults

Poor sleep habits and sleep environment. These include irregular sleep hours, consumption of alcohol before bedtime, and falling asleep with the TV on. Make sure your room is comfortable, dark and quiet, and your bedtime rituals conducive to sleep.

Pain or medical conditions. Health conditions such as a frequent need to urinate, pain, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, nighttime heartburn, and Alzheimers disease can interfere with sleep. Talk to your doctor to address any medical issues.

Menopause and post menopause. During menopause, many women find that hot flashes and night sweats can interrupt sleep. Even post menopause, sleep problems can continue. Improving your daytime habits, especially diet and exercise, can help.

Medications. Older adults tend to take more medications than younger people and the combination of drugs, as well as their side-effects, can impair sleep. Your doctor may be able to make changes to your medications to improve sleep.

Lack of exercise. If you are too sedentary, you may never feel sleepy or feel sleepy all the time. Regular aerobic exercise during the day can promote good sleep.

Stress. Significant life changes like retirement, the death of a loved one, or moving from a family home can cause stress. Nothing improves your mood better than finding someone you can talk to face-to-face.

Sleep disorders.Restless Legs Syndrome and sleep-disordered breathingsuch as snoring and sleep apneaoccur more frequently in older adults.

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Study Population And Data Collection

This is a cross-sectional prospective study conducted at the Geriatric, Neurology, and Psychiatry outpatient clinics of Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital , Taiwan, from July to September 2018. Older adults with severe cognitive impairment , psychiatric disorders , or challenging communication were excluded. Most participants recruited from Psychiatry outpatient clinics had depressive symptoms, anxiety, insomnia, and dementia. For this study, we calculated the sample size based on the website , which used an error margin of 5%, confidence level of 95%, and an expected ratio of insomnia of 30%~48% . The range of results for expected sample size was 318~377. Physicians working in the outpatient clinics used convenience sampling to recruit participants on weekdays. Afterwards, face-to-face interviews were conducted by well-trained nursing researchers using structured questionnaires, including demographic data, personal lifestyle habits, physical and mood functions, and sleep-related characteristics. Finally, a total of 400 older adult subjects, aged 60-97years, were recruited.

What Are The Causes Of Insomnia In Teens

Insomnia has been estimated to affect up to 23.8% of teens. Biological changes push teens toward a later, night owl sleep schedule, but they usually cant sleep as long as they would like in the morning because of school start times.

Teens may be especially susceptible to overscheduling and stress from school, work, and social obligations. Teens also have high rates of using electronic devices in their bedroom. Each of these factors contributes to a high rate of insomnia during adolescence.

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Factors That May Disrupt Sleep

It is important to keep multiple factors in mind when evaluating sleep complaints in elderly patients because a number of problems may contribute to poor sleep . Nighttime insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness should not be viewed as isolated symptoms. It is important to obtain a complete sleep history that includes the entire 24-hour day to examine all of the factors that may influence sleep and wakefulness . Asking the patient to keep a sleep log that covers all sleep over a period of several weeks may be helpful in establishing the patient’s sleep patterns. In addition to an assessment of the timing and regularity of bedtime, sleep onset, nighttime awakenings and daytime naps, other important features in the evaluation include the usual total sleep time during a 24-hour period and the predictability of the longest uninterrupted sleep periods.

Primary sleep disorders

Exercise For Overcoming Sleep Problems In Older Adults

Causes of Insomnia | Common Sleep Disorder

Exerciseespecially aerobic activityreleases chemicals in your body that promote more restful sleep. Even if you have mobility issues, there are countless activities you can do to prepare yourself for a good nights sleep. But always consult your doctor before embarking on any new fitness program.


Swimming/water exercises. Swimming laps is a gentle way to build up fitness and is great for sore joints or weak muscles. Many community and YMCA pools have swim programs just for older adults, as well as water-based exercise classes.

Dancing. If you love to move to music, go dancing or take a dance class. Dance classes are also a great way to extend your social network.

Lawn bowling, bocce, or pétanque. These ball games are gentle ways to exercise. The more you walk, and the brisker the pace, the more aerobic benefit youll experience.

Golfing. Golf is another exercise that doesnt require vigorous movement. Walking adds an aerobic bonus and spending time on the course with friends can improve your mood.

Cycling or running. If you are in good shape, you can run and cycle until late in life. Both can be done outdoors or on a stationary bike or treadmill.

Aerobic exercise helps seniors sleep better

A study at Northwestern University found that aerobic exercise resulted in the most dramatic improvement in quality of sleep, including sleep duration, for middle-aged and older adults with a diagnosis of insomnia.

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The 6 Most Common Causes Of Insomnia

This article provides a list of some of the most common causes of insomnia. While most people experience the same symptoms of insomnia, the root causes of insomnia often differ.

Take a look at the list of causes below and try to identify which apply to you. Finding what causes your insomnia is a key step to make because the treatments for insomnia vary depending on the cause. Theres no one size fits all solution to cure insomnia.

The 6 causes of insomnia that well look at in this article are:

  • Illnesses or Sleep Disorders
  • What Causes Sleep Disorders In Older Adults

    A primary sleep disorder means there is not another medical or psychiatric cause. Individuals of all ages can be affected by sleep disorders, including older adults.

    Insomnia is one of the most common medical complaints, especially in older adults. It often coexists with medical, psychiatric, sleep, or neurological disorders.

    Insomnia may also be associated with stress, medications, poor sleep habits, or changes in the sleep environment, according to

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    Tips For Getting A Better Nights Sleep

    If you are experiencing insomnia, you should talk to your doctor right away. But youll be happy to know that you may not need to rely on medications to help you fall asleep and stay that way, especially if your insomnia isnt being caused by a medical condition. A few minor adjustments can make a major difference in the quality of your sleep.

    How To Prevent Insomnia In Seniors: Dos And Donts

    Helping Seniors Cope With Insomnia

    Its a good idea to see the doctor if your loved one regularly has sleep problems. If another condition or medication is causing their insomnia, its important to address it first.

    You can also talk to your parent about ways to promote healthy sleeping habits and a soothing environment.

    Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

    Be physically active each day, but exercise early in the day and no later than four hours before going to bed.

    Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool room .

    Before bed, take a warm bath or practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises.

    If you cant fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up, go to another room, and do a relaxing activity like listening to calming music.


    Consume caffeine or alcohol three hours before bed.

    Eat heavy meals, spicy food before bed.

    Drink excessive amounts of liquid before bed. A glass of warm milk is OK.

    Nap during the day.

    Use bright lights before bedtime. Turn off your TV or cell phone 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime.

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    Encourage Better Sleep At Night

    Naturally boost your melatonin levels. Artificial lights at night can suppress your bodys production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Use low-wattage bulbs where safe to do so, and turn off the TV and computer at least one hour before bed.

    Dont read from a backlit device at night . If like to read from a tablet or other electronic device, switch to an eReader that requires an additional light source.

    Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool, and your bed is comfortable. We often become more sensitive to noise as we age, and light and heat can also cause sleep problems. Using a sound machine, ear plugs, or a sleep mask can help.

    Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. By not working, watching TV, or using your computer in bed, your brain will associate the bedroom with just sleep and sex.

    Move bedroom clocks out of view. The light can disrupt your sleep and anxiously watching the minutes tick by is a surefire recipe for insomnia.

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    Simple Steps Can Combat Sleep Problems In Elderly

    Dec. 7, 1999 — For many older folks, a good night’s sleep is but a dream. They have trouble falling asleep and awaken after only a few hours. Their daytime fatigue may be so overwhelming that they can’t drive or participate in other normal activities.

    About half of those who complain to their doctors about poor sleep end up with a prescription drug. Not only are these unnecessary but they also are habit-forming and can cause side effects, according to sleep researcher Michael Vitiello, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    It is far better for people to consider what simple changes could be made to improve their sleep — and to understand how sleep patterns change with age, Vitiello writes in the November/December 1999 issue of the journal Gerontology.

    Common — and normal — sleep problems, which plague up to 40% of the elderly, include light sleep, frequent waking, and daytime fatigue. Among older people, there is also a decrease in the deep-sleep stage and an increase in periods of wakefulness during the night. “Compared with younger adults, even carefully screened noncomplaining older adults exhibit the sleep pattern changes described,” writes Vitiello.

    Before a physician can diagnose a sleep disorder, he or she should perform a thorough medical examination, review medications the person is taking, and speak to the person’s spouse or bed partner about their sleeping habits.

    What Causes Insomnia In The Elderly

    Sleep Disorders and Healthy Aging – Causes of Insomnia – Trouble Sleeping

    As we age, more and more health problems can cause us to miss out on sleep. For seniors, one of the most common reasons for sleeplessness is being forced to get up and leave the bed to use the restroom. Getting up several times in the night prevents the body from completing a full sleep cycle and entering deep sleep. This is known as nocturia. While there are many reasons a person might develop nocturia, its most frequent in older adults, who tend to develop bladder issues over time. Limiting the intake of fluids in the hour leading up to bedtime may help.

    Another problem that may cause difficulty sleeping is arthritis. This disease affects about a fifth of all Canadian seniors, and can lead to your elderly loved one waking up several times per night due to pain or discomfort. There are many natural remedies to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, which may help with sleeping. However, be aware that certain steroidal medications may actually worsen insomnia in seniors.

    If dementia is a factor, Sundown Syndrome may be at fault. This phenomenon causes those with Alzheimers to become confused and agitated toward the end of the day. When sundowning is an issue, its recommending to have a family member or professional caregiver present at all times of the night to supervise the affected senior.

    Stress and depression can also cause restless nights. These problems are most common in elderly parents who live alone, and dont have caregivers or family members to offer company.

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    What Changes To Expect With Sleep As You Age

    As we age, our bodies go through a lot of changes. Some of these changes significantly affect our quality of sleep and sleep patterns. Some of the most common challenges with sleep as we age include:

    • Waking up early in the morning
    • Getting tired earlier in the evening
    • Waking up multiple times in the middle of the night
    • Having insomnia

    As we get older, our bodies cannot process the sleep-wake systems as well. This is due to changes in hormones. For instance, aging adults produce less of a hormone called melatonin. This is significant because melatonin regulates our sleep. When we have less of this hormone, we don’t sleep as well.

    Our sleep cycles change as we age, too. A typical sleep cycle is divided into four stages: two stages of âlightâ non-rapid eye movement sleep, one stage of âslow-waveâ or âheavyâ NREM sleep, and a final stage of rapid eye movement sleep before the cycle begins again.

    Older people tend to experience less time in the “slow-wave” NREM stage. This can make them more likely to wake up throughout the night, ultimately leaving them tired in the morning. Many people describe it as a feeling of never getting enough rest no matter how hard they try, leaving them groggy and sluggish during the day.

    What Causes Insomnia

      Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects as many as 35% of adults. It is marked by problems getting to sleep, staying asleep through the night, and sleeping as long as you would like into the morning. It can have serious effects, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness, a higher risk of auto accidents, and widespread health effects from sleep deprivation.

      Common causes of insomnia include stress, an irregular sleep schedule, poor sleeping habits, mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, physical illnesses and pain, medications, neurological problems, and specific sleep disorders. For many people, a combination of these factors can initiate and exacerbate insomnia.

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