written by: Karen Weeks

Seniors are one of the most known groups of people to suffer with sleep disorders, many of which are serious health concerns and should be treated by a doctor. But sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and other nighttime nightmares aren’t always the reason behind restless nights. Keep reading for more information.

Common sleep disorders

Sleep disorders affect approximately 70 million people in the United States. Cleveland Clinic lists insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy as the most prevalent. While the symptoms of these and other sleep disorders are different, the outcome is the same: poor sleep quality, which can affect overall health and wellness. Seniors who wake up groggy or disoriented or commonly nod off during the day may be suffering a sleep disorder and not even know it. In addition to high blood pressure, a weakened immunity and an elevated diabetes risk, chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to long and short-term cognitive impairment.

For seniors, Medicare is a valuable ally in the fight for a good night. Certain Medicare plans provide comprehensive coverage for sleeping disorders. Medicare.org explains that Medicare Part B provides coverage for overnight sleep quality tests that can diagnose a potentially fatal problem.

Sleep disorder or environmental influence?

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders experienced by seniors and it is often triggered by external factors. Stress, medications, drug or alcohol use, depression, late-night snacking, and excess caffeine consumption are all factors that contribute to restless slumber and the inability to fall asleep.

Tips for a good night’s sleep

Seniors who are not diagnosed with a sleeping disorder but still experience poor sleep quality may wish to make a few changes to their home and lifestyle.

  • Don’t drink coffee after noon. For the vast majority of individuals, caffeine is absorbed and metabolized in approximately five hours. For this group, a cup of coffee in the early afternoon probably won’t cause any adverse reactions. However, those with caffeine hypersensitivity can experience an increased heart rate and an overall nervous feeling that lasts for twice as long as the average person.
  • Invest in a good mattress. Not all sleep surfaces are created equal and a bad mattress can lead to pain and discomfort. Mattress Advisor explains that even a quality mattress could contribute to sleep issues depending on one’s sleep style, some are better for side sleepers while others are more suited for back sleepers. It’s important to zero in on the best mattress for your body type and the way you like to sleep.
  • While it’s true that exercise may become more difficult with age, the vast majority of seniors are not getting enough physical activity, even if they are able. Exercise provides many valuable benefits for overall health and can leave the body feeling tired enough to settle down at night.
  • Eat the right foods. A small snack before climbing under the sheets is a great way to ward off hunger until morning. But consuming the wrong foods, which are those that contain sugar or cause bloating, will leave the hapless eater tossing and turning. Likewise, alcohol is another off-limits nightcap.
  • Light and sound. Light and sound also have a negative effect on sleep quality. Seniors should ensure their bedroom is completely dark, although a motion-detecting nightlight is essential for midnight bathroom breaks. Blackout curtains and/or a sleep mask can help. Intrusive noise may be drowned out via the use of earplugs or a white or pink noise sound machine. Soft music or the sound of running water, thunderstorms, or ocean waves can also induce sleep.

Seniors often get a reputation for being late-life night owls. However, seniors need the same amount of sleep as 25-year-olds, approximately seven to nine hours every night. Sleep disorders must be diagnosed and treated. But outside factors that makes sleep elusive, including noise, caffeine consumption and a sedentary lifestyle are issues that can be handled by minor tweaks to each day.