7 Sleep Problems That Can Happen As You Age

7 Sleep Problems That Can Happen As You Age

We often notice regular changes in our sleeping patterns as we age. For example, we may become tired quickly, wake up early, or disturb sleep. 

Disturbed sleep, tiredness, insomnia, and other symptoms are not typical signs of sleep changes with ageing. Your physical and emotional well-being is equally important as when you were younger. And this can be a sign of decreased melatonin production as well. 

Good sleep can improve memory and concentration, allowing the body to repair any external damages. It also helps prevent diseases. 

People over 60 who aren't getting enough sleep are more likely than others to experience depression, memory and attention problems, nighttime falls, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Insufficient sleep can lead to serious health issues, such as the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, weight problems and breast cancer in women.

What are some common sleep problems?

Some common sleeping disorders are listed below-

Insomnia

Insomnia refers to a sleep disorder that causes people to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. This is the most common of all sleep problems, and it affects many people in middle age and older. It is pretty common and becomes more prevalent as we age. 

It is essential to assess the problem by keeping track of your sleep. It is essential for older adults not to rely solely on prescriptions or other drugs like alcohol, over-the-counter pills, and other sleep-related substances that experts do not recommend. 

All such substances can cause brain damage and increase cognitive decline. Everybody has difficulty falling asleep as they age. If you experience insomnia several nights per week or for months, it is time to see a doctor.

 Insomnia is characterized by one or more of these symptoms:

  • Difficult to fall asleep.
  • Having trouble falling asleep at night.
  • It is too early to get up in the morning.
  • Unrefreshing Sleep
  • At least one daily problem, such as fatigue, sleepiness, mood swings, concentration, and accidents while driving or at work, are considered results of poor sleep problems.

The duration and frequency of insomnia can vary. One in ten has chronic insomnia, and approximately 50% of adults have occasional insomnia attacks. Insomnia can happen by itself, or it can be linked to psychiatric or medical conditions. 

It can occur short-term or long-term and be associated with psychiatric or medical conditions. There are times when it is not severe and others when it is mild. Adjustment insomnia, or acute, can last for a few nights to several weeks. 

Chronic insomnia is when someone experiences persistent insomnia at least three nights per week or more.

Acute or short-term insomnia may be caused by life stressors (such as job change, death, or moving), illness, or environmental factors like light, noise, or extreme temperatures. Many chronic conditions can result in insomnia and disrupted sleep in the elderly.

Chronic insomnia or long-term sleeplessness (insomnia lasting at least three nights per week for at most three months) can be caused in part by depression, chronic stress, pain at night, and chronic stress. Conditioned emotional responses can cause chronic insomnia. 

Sleep problems can be exacerbated by behaviours and habits such as sleeping in, napping, or meditating in bed.

Insomnia

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a severe disorder affecting sleep, which can lead to breathing problems, such as loud snoring or daytime tiredness. Although anyone can suffer from sleep apnea, it is more common in overweight older men. 

Untreated sleep apnea can cause people to stop breathing, often hundreds of times per night. 

Sleep apnea, if not treated, can lead to a variety of health problems, including stroke, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, diabetes, and cardiomyopathy. Some common symptoms include snores loudly, fatigue, concentration difficulties, headaches, irritability, etc. A person suffering from sleep apnea faces frequent pauses during their sleep.

There are two types of Sleep apnea - Obstructive and Central.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs more often than others. Obstructive sleep apnea disorder is a condition that causes sleep disruptions by causing episodes of upper airway obstruction during sleep. 

As the pressure builds, it causes the diaphragm to work harder and the chest muscles to contract. The breathing sound is usually accompanied by a loud gasp and/or a body jerk. These episodes can disrupt sound sleep, decrease oxygen flow to vital organs and cause irregularities in the heart rhythm.

Central sleep apnea is when the airway does not become blocked, but when the brain cannot signal the muscles to breathe because of instability at the respiratory control centre. Central apnea can be attributed to dysfunction in the central nervous system.

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that affects the sleep cycle, is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden episodes of sleep. 

Narcolepsy patients often have trouble staying awake for extended periods regardless of their circumstances. With narcolepsy, you can disrupt your daily life. Experts describe it as a condition that causes extreme sleepiness during the day. It can also cause muscle weakness. 

Many sufferers of narcolepsy have difficulty sleeping at night. People with the disorder may fall asleep abruptly, even when they are busy talking, eating, or doing other activities. Both men and women can suffer from narcolepsy, and symptoms typically appear in the teens or early adult years. 

The primary symptoms characterize narcolepsy: extreme daytime sleepiness, cataplexy (muscle weakness while awake), hallucinations, and sleep paralysis during sleep. 

You may experience one or more of the following symptoms if you suffer from narcolepsy. These symptoms can be mild or severe. Less than one-third of those suffering from narcolepsy experience all four symptoms. 

A doctor might diagnose narcolepsy by looking at your symptoms, such as excessive sleepiness during the day and sudden loss in muscle tone (cataplexy). Your doctor may refer you for further evaluation after a preliminary diagnosis.

Narcolepsy

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome is a condition where a person feels twitchy and uncomfortable in their legs. This usually happens after they go to bed (mattress height) and can also cause insomnia. It can be caused by mental or physical problems or an adverse effect of certain medications. 

It's also known as Willis Ekbom syndrome. RLS can be classified as mild and severe depending on the severity of symptoms, their frequency, the ease with which they can be treated, and the amount of disturbance they cause.

The condition known as restless legs syndrome (RLS) is when you feel an uncontrollable urge or discomfort to move your legs. This usually occurs at night or in the evening when lying down or sitting. Temporarily, moving can help to ease the discomfort. 

It generally worsens with age and can cause sleep disruptions that interfere with your daily activities. You can relieve your symptoms by making lifestyle and self-care changes. Many people also benefit from RLS medication. 

Symptoms can develop when a person is in a restricted space such as an aeroplane seat or at the cinema. This could cause fatigue throughout the day. This can impact learning, work, concentration, routine tasks, and other activities. 

People with RLS often want to move around and shake their legs to relieve the discomfort. There is no test to diagnose restless legs syndrome (RLS). You should have an overnight sleep study to rule out other sleep disorders such as obstructive or obstructive sleep disorder.

REM sleep behaviour disorder

RBD dream enactment can range in severity from mild hand gestures to more severe thrashing and punching. Patients present to the hospital with concerns about dangerous or potentially harmful actions to their health or their partner. 

It is a sleep disorder that causes vivid, sometimes unpleasant dreams. It involves vocal sounds, violent arm and leg movements, and frequent, intense, disturbing visions. 

REM sleep is a stage of normal sleep that occurs several times per night. You don't usually move during REM. REM sleep accounts for approximately 20 per cent of your total sleep. This is when you dream, and it probably occurs in the second half. 

It can happen gradually or suddenly. Episodes may be intermittent or frequent. This disorder can often get worse over time. These sleep disorders are caused by strange or potentially dangerous events that disrupt sleep. 

While it can occur at any age, men over the age of 50 most commonly have Rapid eye movement (REM) and sleep behaviour disorder (RBD). 

During the REM phase, muscles temporarily paralyze during sleep, and RBD is a condition where paralysis is not complete or absent. The person "acts" out of their dreams, sometimes in dramatic and violent ways. 

Sleepers with RBD are more likely to be physically active, move their limbs, get up and leave the bed (mattress for seniors) due to lack of temporary muscle paralysis. RBD can lead to injuries in some cases.

REM sleep behaviour disorder

Nocturia

Good sleep will help you feel refreshed in the morning. Getting a good night's rest can be challenging if you need to go to the bathroom every night. 

You may be suffering from nocturia, which is when you wake up every night to go to the bathroom more than once. It is more common in people over 60. Nocturia is a medical term that refers to excessive nighttime urine. 

Your body produces less urine during sleep, so it is more concentrated. This means that people can go to sleep for up to 6-8 hours without having to wake up at night.

You may have nocturia if you wake up more than twice per night to go to the bathroom. Not only is it disruptive to your sleep, but it can also indicate a medical condition. Nighttime urination is a significant contributor to ageing. 

The body's ability to retain fluid is affected by ageing. This causes an increase in urine production, particularly at night. The bladder's muscles can become weaker over time, making it harder to keep urine in the bladder.

Nighttime urination is not caused by age alone. Other causes include chronic infections of the urinary tract, excessive fluid intake (especially caffeinated or alcoholic) before bed, bladder infection, and medication that encourages urination (diuretics). 

The majority of people can sleep for six to eight hours without going to the bathroom. Nighttime urination can cause you to go to the bathroom several times a night. This condition can cause you to wake up as many as six times a night.

Nighttime urination can be associated with excessive urine production, frequent urination, or a feeling of urgency to urinate, but little urine is produced. Problems can arise from nighttime urination. If you frequent the bathroom, you won't feel refreshed. Even nighttime urination may increase the risk of injury and falls in older adults.

Excessive daytime sleepiness 

It is one of the most common symptoms of sleep disorders and affects approximately 20 per cent of the population. Excessive daytime sleepiness puts people at greater work-related risk, motor vehicle accidents, and poor health. 

High levels of excessive daytime sleepiness are more common in older adults, adolescents, and shift workers. 

However, it is difficult to determine its true prevalence due to the subjective nature, inconsistent terminology, and lack of consensus regarding diagnosis and assessment methods. 

Excessive sleepiness is often caused by not getting enough rest. Other causes include smoking, drug, alcohol use, lack of exercise, obesity, and certain medication. A chronic lack of sleep is the most common reason. 

This could be due to long working hours, irregular work schedules, insomnia, or other factors. Exercising multiple times per night to go to the bathroom can disrupt the natural progression of sleep stages and reduce the amount of restorative slow-wave. 

Other lifestyle habits, such as smoking and not getting enough exercise, can affect sleep quality and lead to daytime sleepiness.

How can we treat sleep disorders?

Understanding the root causes of your sleep problems is key to improving your quality of rest. These tips will help you identify and fix age-related sleep issues, get a good night's rest, and improve your quality of life.

  • You should have a regular sleep schedule.
  • Your bedroom should be quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable
  • Sleep aids and sleeping pills should be limited
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before bed
  • Be comfortable
  • Before bed, avoid eating large meals or spicy food
  • Mindfulness meditation.
  • Do regular exercise but not close to your bedtime

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