Four Tips on Managing Insomnia in Older Adults - Unlimited Care Cottages

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Four Tips on Managing Insomnia in Older Adults

Insomnia prevents millions of Americans from getting a good night’s sleep, resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness that hinders their everyday life. Older adults are more prone to insomnia, causing many seniors to seek treatment for their condition, but to no avail. That’s why Unlimited Care Cottages put together some efficient tips to manage insomnia in older adults.

Unlimited Care Cottages is one of the greater Houston area’s leading senior living communities. We offer high-quality assisted living care to Spring, The Woodlands, Oak Ridge North, Willis, and Kingwood seniors looking for a cozy residence to call home. If you want a friendly and fun senior living community that puts your needs first, contact Unlimited Care Cottages.

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a relatively common sleep disorder that affects 10 to 30% of adults. It makes falling asleep incredibly strenuous and can cause cognitive impairments that make everyday tasks more difficult. Seniors and older adults experience insomnia more frequently, causing them to toss and turn well into the wee hours of the morning.

Seniors and older adults suffer from insomnia more often for various reasons. Some have conditions that prevent them from falling asleep, while others have trouble adjusting their internal clock. However, the most common reasons for insomnia in older adults include:

  • Seniors have more psychiatric and medical conditions that escalate insomnia symptoms
  • Seniors suffer from other sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome or sleep-disordered breathing
  • People’s sleep-wake cycles and internal circadian clocks change as they age
  • Older adults take more medications that can disturb their sleep cycle

Seniors often have trouble falling asleep and wake up more frequently once they do. Studies show that once someone reaches middle age, their sleep latency increases. In fact, people lose around 27 minutes of sleep per night with each passing decade.

To put it simply, the older you are, the more likely you are to experience insomnia and other sleep disorders.

How to Treat Insomnia in Older Adults

Managing insomnia isn’t easy, especially once you reach the later stages of life. However, there are a few treatments that help seniors and older adults overcome insomnia and improve their sleep. Below are some efficient solutions to help you curb your insomnia symptoms.

1. Stimulus Control

Stimulus control is a technique that requires you to only go to bed when you become tired.

Many healthcare professionals believe trying to fall asleep when you’re not tired can keep you up longer. They recommend getting up and continuing your daily activities if you haven’t nodded off after 20 or 30 minutes. Once you feel tired, return to bed, and try to fall asleep again.

Also, refraining from afternoon naps is a fantastic stimulus control method to help you fall asleep at night. It’s best to fight the urge to nap and wait until the evening to sleep. Avoiding naps will also help you fall asleep early, allowing you to sleep longer without sleeping in.

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps older adults identify and reverse problematic behaviors or ideas about sleeping. Healthcare practitioners teach seniors proper sleeping habits and help them improve their mindset to fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. Cognitive behavioral therapy consists of six to eight sessions and includes various interventions.

The three primary interventions in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia are:

  • Cognitive interventions: Attempts to change unhelpful or inaccurate views on sleep.
  • Behavioral interventions: Focuses on stimulus control, relaxation training, and sleep restriction to improve a person’s sleep patterns.
  • Psychoeducational interventions: Teaches seniors the connections between behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and sleep.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the best ways to treat insomnia in older adults while teaching them useful relaxation thought processes to improve sleep quality.

3. Bright Light Therapy

Sometimes excess bright light exposure at night can make it difficult to fall asleep. Medical professionals often recommend bright light therapy for seniors that struggle to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.

Bright light therapy has seniors face a specially designed visor or light box for a certain amount of time each day (the times differ depending on the senior and their insomnia’s severity). The visor or light box mimics daylight to reset the patient’s circadian rhythm (internal body clock), allowing them to fall asleep faster.

It’s important to note that these lights don’t emit dangerous UV rays and aren’t positioned directly toward the patient’s eyes. The light intensity ranges from 2,500 lux to 10,000 lux, with less-intense light requiring longer treatment times.

Bright light therapy is perfect for older adults that wake up and go to bed too early. The excess light exposure helps create a better sleep pattern naturally, helping improve their daily schedule.

4. Medication

If you continue to experience insomnia after receiving non-pharmacological treatments, your doctor might prescribe sleep medications. However, many sleep medications have adverse side effects, making them less ideal for seniors and older adults.

For example, some contain substances that have hypnotic effects that impair mobility, increasing the chance of you slipping and falling. Many sleeping pills are highly addictive and can create dependency if overused. Additionally, some medications don’t mix well with others, so your doctor must assess your current prescriptions and determine the best drug for your needs.

Before taking sleeping medication, ask your doctor about natural solutions like melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps people sleep without habit-forming drugs. It’s best to treat insomnia with organic solutions and treatments before taking sleep medications.

Contact Unlimited Care Cottages for High-Quality Assisted Living in the Greater Houston, TX, Area

If you are a senior looking for an incredible assisted living community in the greater Houston, TX, area, contact Unlimited Care Cottages. We help treat insomnia in older adults by teaching them how to induce “slow wave” sleep while improving their stress management and coping methods. If you need a friendly and welcoming senior community that makes your needs its top priority, contact Unlimited Care Cottages.

Give Unlimited Care Cottages a call at (713) 419-2609 and reserve your cottage today!

Bharath Kumar Oleti