Insomnia is a disorder where you have difficulty falling asleep or the inability to enjoy quality uninterrupted sleep. Most people need 7 or more hours of sleep a night. Sleeplessness can affect anyone at any age, however, the condition is much more common in the senior living space. It is a common misconception that the elderly need fewer hours of sleep than younger adults. The amount of sleep is the same, but the cycles start earlier in the day. When seniors continue to stay up late, as they did in their younger years, it results in sleep deprivation. About 50% of adults over the age of 60 experience insomnia, according to the National Institute of Health.
Although it is a medical disorder on its own, insomnia is related to with many other medical conditions. Almost all body systems are affected by lack of sleep. A broad spectrum of illnesses can result in a person who is sleep deprived, such as irritability, memory loss, depression or even heart disease and car accidents.
Ways to overcome or control insomnia:
These lifestyle changes that can help control insomnia:
- Follow a fixed daily schedule. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time, and schedule your exercise for the same time of the day (preferably a few hours before bedtime).
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, cola drinks) three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol in the evening. It is a myth that an alcoholic drink will help you sleep better. Although it may seem to relax you and make you drowsy at first, as it goes through your body it will make you restless and decrease the quality of your sleep.
- Get daily sunlight to help regulate the sleep/wake cycle.
- Too much TV or computer time in the evening can reduce your melatonin levels, which will make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Relax. Stress is the number one cause of insomnia.
- Train yourself to fall asleep at the same time by performing the same soothing rituals: Listen to relaxing music, read a good (but not too exciting) book, or take a warm bubble bath.
- Establish a sleep ritual: take a warm shower, drink some herbal tea, and try some deep breathing exercises.
- See your doctor for additional advice and treatment.