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What Causes Insomnia In Older Adults

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Remedies For Sleep Problems Due To Aging

Best Treatment for Insomnia in Older Adults

Getting a good night’s sleep is an important part of healthy aging, but sleep patterns change as people get older, interfering with the quality of our rest.

As people get older, their sleep patterns tend to change. Many older adults report being less satisfied with their sleep than they were when they were younger. But insomnia and other sleep problems are not a non-negotiable part of aging, and there are steps you can take to sleep better well into your later years.

Your sleep patterns are in part controlled by your body’s internal clock. This clock helps determine when you feel awake and when you feel sleepy. From infancy to old age, hormonal changes and natural changes in your body clock cause shifts in your sleep patterns.

Learn about the different stages of sleep.

These shifts are thought to be why older adults tend to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier than younger people. They also may be the reason that older adults nap more during the day and awaken more frequently during the night, says Phil Gehrman, PhD, CBSM, clinical director of Penn Medicine’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Penn Sleep Center in Philadelphia.

Age-Related Sleep Problems

Lifestyle changes that often occur with aging can also create sleep problems in older adults:

10 Sleep Tips for Seniors

If sleep is becoming more difficult for you as you get older, try these steps:

How Do Elderly Maintain Fluid And Electrolyte Balance

For the elderly patient who has undergone uncomplicated surgery, early resumption of oral intake is the best approach to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. During the immediate postoperative period, ongoing fluid losses from all sites, including insensible losses, should be replaced meticulously.

Tip : Reduce Mental Stress

Stress and anxiety built up during the day can also interfere with sleep at night. Its important to learn how to let go of thoughts and worries when its time to sleep.

  • Keep a journal to record worries before you retire.
  • On your to-do list, check off tasks completed, list your goals for tomorrow, and then let them go.
  • Listen to calming music.

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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.

Characteristics Of Study Participants With Or Without Insomnia

7 Common Causes of Insomnia in Elderly People

Among the 400 subjects who participated in the present study, the mean age was 74.74years , and about one-half were women. A majority of participants had more than one chronic disease. Table presents the differences in demographic information, life style, chronic diseases, physical function and sleep-related problems between participants with and without insomnia. The prevalence of insomnia defined by the AIS scale was 30% , and was approximately 22.9% and 37.2% for male and female subjects, respectively. Subjects with insomnia had a significantly higher prevalence of poor appetite, not forming regular exercise habits, short sleep duration, tendency to use sleeping pills, depressive symptoms, and medium-high risk of OSA and RLS.

Table 1 Baseline characteristics of the study participants

Factors associated with insomnia in older adults

Table 2 Univariate and multivariate logistic regression of correlates of insomnia in older adults

The influence of gender on factors associated with insomnia

Table 3 Gender differences in correlates of insomnia in older adults

Associations between gender and insomnia symptoms

Table 4 Associations between insomnia-related characteristics and gender

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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
  • Insomnia In Older Adults: Tips To Master Sleep As We Age

    Dylan J. Jester, BS Doctoral Student, University of South Florida School of Aging Studies

    Insomnia perhaps even reading the word elicits a rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, and future worries about the success of sleep tonight.

    A disorder characterized by trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early and being unable to fall back asleep, insomnia impairs our ability to function day-to-day. These symptoms occur several times per week and last for months. Although symptoms may be common in older age, the prevalence of full-blown insomnia in older adults is much lower between 4% and 11%.

    How does our sleep change as we get older?

    Scientists have suggested that our sleep becomes more fragile as we age, which may contribute to light sleep, falling asleep during the daytime, waking at night, and obtaining fewer total hours of sleep.

    Not all older adults will experience decreases in sleep quality and quantity that are noticeable enough to cause dissatisfaction. However, if you find yourself with poorer sleep than you would like, try some of these steps to combat sleep problems.

    Sleep Tip 1: Reduce Technology in the Bedroom

    Technology is an incredible invention that has changed the way we communicate with each other, changed the way we learn, and is a main source of our entertainment. Unfortunately, it has intruded into our bed a space solely devoted to sleep and sex for thousands of years. Do you have a cellphone near your bedside? A television?


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    Insomnia In Older Adults: Causes And Treatment

    Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

    The inability to initiate or maintain sleep is known as insomnia. Older adults are more likely to suffer from insomnia and take more time to fall asleep than younger adults.

    Older adults suffering from insomnia or other sleep difficulties are at a higher risk of developing memory problems, experiencing day time fatigue, and suffering from depression. In some cases, the COVID 19 situation has caused this group to be forced to live in isolation and caused them to worry about their health, adding to stress and increasing the likelihood of insomnia. Therefore it is important to understand the causes and ways to treat insomnia.


    The prevalence of insomnia is reported to be more than 30% in the US, with the incidence increasing to more than 50% in older adults. Women are two times more likely to have insomnia than men.

    About 23% of older adults with insomnia have an increased risk of developing depression.

    Best Treatments For Insomnia In Older Adults

    What Is the Best Treatment for Insomnia in Older Adults?

    Even if you or your love one is dealing with one or several of these causes of insomnia, it is possible to improve sleep and breathing as you age, notes Dr. Steven Olmos, a dental surgeon and founder of TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centres International who has spent the last 30 years devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.

    Older adults who want to improve their sleep are generally offered two options by their doctor: medication or evidence-based psychological treatments . According to a 2020 review of all available treatments for the elderly with insomnia, no one specific intervention was found to be most effective. Everyone is a bit different, so it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you or your older loved one.

    The first step to improving sleep is to create a calm nighttime routine and focus on stimulus control, or techniques that are designed to strengthen the brains association between the bed and sleep, says Christine Walsh, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco who holds a doctorate in neuroscience and studies sleep in older adults and those who have neurodegenerative diseases. A few options:

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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.

    Where Can I Go For Support

    You may feel depressed or anxious because you are sleeping poorly. Talk about your feelings with your caregiver or with someone close to you. For more information, write or call one of the following groups.

    • National Sleep Foundation1522 K Street NW, Suite 500Washington , DC 20005
    • National Heart, Lung and Blood InstituteHealth Information Center

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    Changes In The Sleeping Pattern In Older Adults

    A normal sleep cycle comprises of 3 segments:

  • Light sleep
  • Deep sleep : This is considered to be the most soothing part of sleep
  • Rapid eye movement sleep : This is important for learning and retaining memory
  • Deep sleep is observed in the first half of sleep and REM in the second part. Usually it takes 1.5-2 hours to shift from NREM to REM stage of sleep.

    Older adults may experience difficulty in following this sleeping pattern, caused by the following changes:

    • Changes in the circadian rhythm which regulates individuals sleep-wake cycle
    • Difficulty in initiating sleep
    • Reduction in NREM which results in fragmented sleep and frequent awakenings
    • A decline in REM sleep which leads to difficulty in remembering things

    These changes affect the duration and quality of sleep in older adults. With aging, the time taken to fall asleep increases, which makes them feel tired and exhausted more easily. It also increases their urge to take frequent naps during day time.

    Causes of sleep disorders include:

    Research suggests that the fear of developing an infection, long duration of quarantine, prohibited social interactions, boredom, inadequate supplies of essentials, unpredictability about the disease, and financial losses have affected the psychological health of a large section of individuals. Lack of social and physical contact and a sense of loneliness have also led to grief, sorrow, numbness, anger, frustration, and anxiety-related insomnias.

    Common Causes Of Insomnia In Elderly People

    Treating Insomnia in Older Adults  San Diego  Sharp ...

    According to industry research, more than 50% of older persons experience one or more symptoms of insomnia at least a few times each week.

    Do you fall into this category? What about someone you love?

    There are myriad causes of insomnia in elderly populations, and today were delving into seven of the most common ones. Read on as we explore what causes this phenomenon and how you can help reverse it today.

    Ready to learn more? Lets dive in.

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    Mediators: Depression And Anxiety

    The NHATS health conditions section included two reliable and validated instruments to screen for depression and anxiety: The Patient Health Questionnaire-2 , a validated two-item scale with good sensitivity and specificity for depression screening and The Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale-2 instrument to screen for anxiety . In the PHQ-2 instrument, NHATS respondents were asked: over the last month, how often have you: had little interest or pleasure in doing things and felt down, depressed, or hopeless. The GAD-2 tool asked: over the last month, how often have you: felt nervous, anxious, or on edge been unable to stop or control worrying? Possible Likert scale responses were: 0 = not at all, 1 = several days, 2 = more than half the days, 3 = nearly every day. We used 2012 data in accordance with the PHQ-2 criteria, to classify respondents to have depressive symptoms if their cumulative score for both items was 3 or more . Similarly, NHATS 2012 respondents with a cumulative score of 3 or more for the two GAD-2 items were classified as positive for anxiety symptoms .

    How Long Does Insomnia Last

    The symptoms of insomnia can be either acute or chronic. Acute insomnia is limited to short periods of time or sleep disturbances that occur intermittently. Sleep disturbances that are acute usually are resolved without medication or other treatments. Chronic insomnia lasts for longer periods of time. Chronic insomnia is classified as sleep disturbances that occur at least 3 times per week or at 3 consecutive months. This type of insomnia most often requires some form of intervention, which may include medication or other forms of treatment.

    The symptoms of insomnia are very straightforward for anyone experiencing sleep disturbances. They include:

    • difficulties initiating sleep
    • nocturnal awakenings, difficulty staying asleep
    • waking up too early, earlier than planned

    However, when identifying the causes of insomnia, they can include anything that keeps you from sleeping. Obviously, this will vary from one person to another, and it is even different between the sexes.

    Women have their own unique set of reasons for insomnia. Many of these reasons are related to hormonal changes.

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    Consider Emotions And Other Environmental Reasons

    Finally, it may be important to consider the role of mood disorders on early awakening in older adults. Depression is often associated with these events. It should be noted that depression is also strongly associated with sleep apnea, so this may be more evidence of a potential sleep-related breathing disorder.

    Additionally, anxiety may exacerbate insomnia. Whatever the reason, if arousal provokes an anxious or depressed response, it will be more difficult to return to sleep. This may be improved with cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

    Treating these mood disorders may help improve sleep. There seems to be a two-way relationship, one inevitably affects the other. By improving mood and sleep at the same time, both can be improved.

    It may also be important to consider the impact of environmental factors. Noise, light and temperature may cause you to wake up. Consider whether you need to change your sleep environment to optimize early morning sleep quality.

    If youre still waking up too early and feeling overly fatigued from poor sleep, consider talking with a board-certified sleep physician. By reviewing your medical history, reasons and conditions that respond well to treatment may be identified.

    What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Insomnia

    Sleeplessness Isn’t ‘Normal’ for Older Adults

    You may have one or more of the following signs and symptoms of insomnia:

    • Having a hard time staying asleep. You may also have problems with waking up too early.
    • Having a hard time falling asleep .
    • Waking up many times each night.
    • Feeling tired, irritable and having a hard time concentrating during the day.

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    What Are The Causes Of Insomnia In Elderly People

    Elderly insomnia comes in different ways. You hence ought to understand where the problem is. Then you will know how to treat insomnia in elderly. Let us look at the main causes of insomnia in seniors.

    Sleeping Environment and Bad Sleeping Habits Yes insomnia in the elderly can be caused by a change in the way people sleep. It actually happens a lot when people retire to bed earlier than they are used to.

    They hence stay longer before they fall asleep. Some sleep as soon as they get into their beds. They however fail to maintain the sleep throughout the night. They later wake up in the mid of the night. It then becomes difficult to fall asleep again.

    The environment can be another cause of sleep disorders in elderly. It can happen mostly when there is a change of sleeping environment. Naturally, you cannot sleep as usual when you are not in your natural habitat.

    Sleep problems in late adulthood can get worse when they change their environment. This for example is when their children take them in, in a bid to take care of them.

    Painful medical conditions Aging people are prone to different ailments. Some ailments are mild while others cause them recurring pain. This can be a problem that interrupts sleep. The elderly patient will not sleeping at night when the pain kicks in.

    Regular exercises improve the health and strength of the brain too. To avoid sleep problems in elderly people, they should be encouraged to practice regular exercises.

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