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Sleep Disorder In Elderly

Seniors forms a crucial part of the society and in recent research it has been observed that nearly 80 percent of the elderly suffers from insufficient sleep. It is a common conception that elderly needs less sleep but it is not valid. In fact the elderly needs complete sleep of at least 8 hours. Here we need to understand why does the elderly sleep less and what are causes of sleep disorders in the elderly? We all have a sleep mechanism, which includes periods of light and deep sleep. In the elderly, the period of light sleep surpasses the deep sleep period, thus elderly complaints of sleep issues.


The aging process also bring along a lot of diseases, which also aids to poor sleep habits. Sleep disorders in the elderly are usually caused by a number of factors, including medication, pre-existing or new diseases, and poor sleeping habits. Some common causes that affect the elderly’s sleep are:

  • Elderly affected with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Changes in the body’s natural biological clock, causing some people to fall asleep earlier in the evening, which causes delayed sleep phase syndrome.
  • Chronic diseases
  • Side effects of medicine
  • Depression
  • Pre-existing neurological conditions
  • Arthritis
  • Excessive usage of caffeine
  • Urination at night mainly due to prostate issues
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Psychiatric conditions

Sleep Issues in Elderly

Types  of Sleep Disorders

There are many types of sleep disorders associated with aging. If you are suffering from a primary sleep disorders, you may experience:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Wake up more frequently in the night
  • Fatigue
  • Feel excessive tired especially during the day

The Primary Disorders That are Most Common in the Elderly Are:

  • Sleep apnea – It is very common type of sleep disorders in the elderly. It causes brief interruptions in breathing while you are asleep. People having sleep apnea, also are affected with snoring issues.
  • Restless legs syndrome – It causes discomfort in the legs and often the elderly spends half the time walking around the home. It is also very common in the elderly.
  • Periodic limb movement disorders are responsible for muscle tightening and movements of the arms and legs during sleep.
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders – They are a group of sleep disorders, which affect the physical as well as mental well-being.
  • REM – behavior disorders are also experienced by few elderly, it is a rare type of sleep disorders. It causes thrashing and other body movements during sleep.

Medical Treatments

  1. When sleep apnea is a cause behind non-sleep condition in the elderly, CPAP devices may come handy.
  2. Benzodiazepines: Clonazepam (Klonopin) and Alprazolam (Xanax) are basic benzodiazepines. These drugs are usually prescribed for anxiety but may be given to insomnia patient as well.
  3. Sleep problem differ from person to person so are the treatments. Dopamine agents are suggested when sleep issues are related to restless leg syndrome and Parkinson’s disease.
  4. Oxycodone and Acetaminophen is one more option for conditions like periodic limb movement disorder and restless leg syndrome in elderly.
  5. An antihistamine, suggested usually to treat allergies, induces sleep and drowsiness. These drugs can also be given to elderly for short-term relief. Long-term use is strictly prohibited, especially in the elderly.