Anti aging guide

Sleep and older people



Why sleeping is much less when we grow older and how to solve these problem?

Various studies have shown that complaints of insomnia are more prevalent in older subjects (26 per cent in one report, 45 per cent in another). Difficulty in getting off to sleep is one problem, and although the average time taken by a younger adult is ten minutes, at the age of 70 it is 20-25 minutes. Frequent waking is also common, and these periods of wakefulness may be prolonged. At the physiological level, it appears that the total time spent asleep diminishes in old age but not dramatically so; the old spend more time awake in bed, and there is a significant reduction in what is variously called stage four, delta wave, or slow wave sleep (from the appearance of the electroencephalogram), which is the state of deepest sleep when arousal is most difficult. This may be why sleep often seems less refreshing when we grow older. Nevertheless, older people generally awaken abruptly, unlike the young who seem to engage in a prolonged struggle to reach the surface. An elderly person who is awakened during or immediately after a period of rapid eye movement (shallow) sleep is much less likely to be able to recall a dream than a younger person. An older man has fewer and less complete nocturnal erections when compared with a younger one.

When discussing samples of older people, it must always be remembered that such samples will contain a higher proportion of persons suffering from some major or minor disorder. Although disruption of sleep may simply be due to daytime napping, it may therefore also be related to conditions which cause pain or discomfort, or which necessitate getting up to pass urine, as well as constipation, depression, or anxiety. Some simple guidelines for better sleep include rising at a regular hour, being active during the day, maintaining a comfortable temperature in the bedroom, avoiding coffee or tea during the evening or, for that matter, going to bed hungry. Also avoid worrying. This may sound easier said than done, but one of the few rules in medicine with scarcely an exception, is that people do not die or even become seriously ill through insomnia. A detective novel or a radio or television show late at night may reduce mental activity and the degree of arousal, and a warm milky drink often has a very helpful effect. Only as a last resort is a short course of a mild hypnotic drug occasionally justified, but when taken for more than two to four weeks these drugs may lose their effect or accumulate in the body and cause somnolence, confusion, unsteadiness, or habituation.

There is some evidence that snoring is commoner in later life, mainly due to various types of nasal obstruction. Smoking and obesity are likely to make this tendency worse. There is no simple cure, but the problem is worth mentioning as it can contribute to marital disharmony. When lying on the back, snoring is occasionally followed by a variable period when the breathing stops altogether, and this can occasionally cause daytime drowsiness and other symptoms.

Restless legs syndrome

A maddening but usually benign condition which can severely disrupt sleep is the ‘restless legs syndrome’ in which an intolerable creeping sensation affects the lower legs during the evening and particularly in bed at night. There is a compulsion to keep moving the legs and this affords some relief although some sufferers find they have to get out of bed and walk about. The cause, in most cases, remains obscure although it occasionally seems to be associated with iron deficiency or with defective arteries or nerves in the legs. It is a very difficult condition to relieve, although there are drugs (such as levodopa) which are reported to be helpful sometimes.

Posted by Carol Hudgens - April 29, 2012 at 9:04 am