It’s normal to occasionally struggle to fall asleep, but for people with insomnia, sleep is a constant source of stress and anxiety. A person with insomnia may be tired all day long, then crawl into bed at night and toss and turn. This is a big problem because sleep is such an integral part of our health.

Insomnia is more common than you might think, especially in the senior population. The National Institute of Health estimates that insomnia impacts nearly half of all adults over the age of 60. This is a concern because seniors need their sleep now more than ever, particularly if they suffer from certain health conditions.

If you’re concerned that your senior loved one may have insomnia, here are some important facts you need to know.

Understanding Sleep

It’s normal for sleep patterns to change over a lifetime. While infants need about 16 hours of sleep a night, by the time one reaches adulthood, they only need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Seniors also have these requirements, though it is normal for seniors to begin going to sleep and waking up earlier.

Humans need quality sleep to function. As we sleep, we go through four stages, from light sleep to deep sleep. After that, we go into REM sleep, which is when we dream. Much of the most important, rejuvenating aspects of sleep occur during the REM cycle, and as we age, we spend less time in REM. This disruption in the sleep cycle may be part of the reason why insomnia is more common among the elder population.

Symptoms of Insomnia

Insomnia can manifest in a couple of different ways. People with insomnia may struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or a combination of both. It can be difficult to recognize signs of insomnia in your elderly loved one because it occurs overnight, but here are some symptoms you may be able to recognize.

Night Symptoms

  • Taking more than 45 minutes to fall asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up early without being able to fall back asleep
  • Falls
  • Depression

Day Symptoms

  • Feeling tired
  • Complaining about lack of sleep
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating

Causes of Insomnia

While insomnia can exist on its own, it’s more commonly comorbid with another disorder. Some common causes of insomnia include:

  • Anxiety/stress
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Irregular sleep schedule
  • Stimulants
  • Alcohol
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Sleep disorders
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Certain medications
  • Frequent urination

Insomnia Treatment

If it is determined that your elderly loved one has insomnia, there are several treatment options. They will start with certain behavioral changes to help promote healthy sleep habits, such as:

  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule
  • Exercising early in the day
  • Improving the sleep environment — making it dark, quiet, and comfortable
  • Adding relaxing activities to their bedtime routine, such as taking a bath, listening to relaxing music, or doing a sleep meditation
  • Avoiding caffeine at least five hours before bedtime
  • Not drinking many liquids before bed
  • Limiting naps
  • Not doing anxiety-inducing activities in bed

If these behavioral interventions don’t work, your loved one may be prescribed a sleep aid, or they can choose an over-the-counter option.

Often, seniors with medical conditions need the added support of private duty nursing in Naples. Not only does this offer the round-the-clock medical care they need, it also provides them with company and emotional support. If you’re looking for a private duty nurse in Naples, contact us.