Sleep and Seniors

Alzheimer’s Causes many Sleep Problems (NIA)

Seniors need the same amount of sleep as everyone 7-9 hours. However, many seniors tend to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier than when they were younger.

Reasons Seniors do not Get Enough Sleep


Many seniors have chronic medical conditions that leave them with too much pain to fall asleep or to stay asleep. Sometimes buying a new or different kind of mattress can help. Memory foam mattresses or mattress tops can help stop painful pressure points.

Side Effects from Medicines

Many medicines can lead to insomnia as a side effect. If you or your loved one are having trouble sleeping, be sure to mention this to your doctor, so that he/she will be careful not to prescribe medicines that can interfere with sleep or lead to insomnia.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

People feel pins and needles when they are lying down or like something is crawling on their legs.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

This causes people to kick and jerk their legs about every 20-40 seconds while they are sleeping. This often occurs with people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Disorder

Rapid eye movement usually is accompanied with dreaming. Aging causes changes in the patterns of deep sleep and the lighter (REM) sleep with dreams.

Bladder Problems

Many seniors need to get up several times a night to go to the bathroom. This makes it harder for them to go back to sleep. This can be helped by keeping a chamber pot or bed pan next to the bed to avoid having to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom to urinate. This can make it easier to fall back asleep.

Thirst and Dry Mouth

Some people wake up thirsty and/or with a dry mouth and have to get up to drink and then it is difficult to fall asleep. Keep a bottle of water next to the bed so you can drink without having to get up.

Worries and Stress

Financial and Health Worries

Worrying about money and other financial problems raises the threshold for stress and can keep someone from sleeping. It is a fact that most seniors have more expenses than when they were younger, but less income.

Loss of a Spouse and Loneliness

Some people cannot get used to sleeping alone or living alone after having been married many years.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea can keep seniors from getting a good night’s sleep. In this case a person stops breathing several times during the night, which sometimes leads to choking  and this interrupts normal sleeping. This can also have a bad effect on the brain, as this can stop oxygen from reaching the brain. Sleep apnea can be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Obesity has also been linked to obstructive sleep apnea. To read more about sleep apnea see our blog from May 10, 2018.

Signs of not Enough Sleep

  • A person wakes up feeling tired and irritable.
  • There are more memory problems from a lack of sleep.
  • Not enough proper sleep can lead to more falls and accidents. It is definitely not a good idea to drive or operate dangerous kinds of machinery.
  • Digestive problems like constipation can be a result of not getting enough sleep.

Tips to Fall Asleep

  • Drinking a glass of warm milk and honey can help someone fall asleep.
  • If you have been prescribed Vitamin D as a supplement take it at bedtime, as it helps promote sleep.
  • Back and neck stretching exercises can help relax you so that you can fall asleep.
  • A massage can help to relax someone so that they can fall asleep.
  • Listening to soothing music at bedtime may help.


Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep. In some cases there may be brief dosing off. In other cases there is no sleep at all. For insomnia see your doctor about prescribing medicines to help you or your loved one sleep.

Alzheimer’s Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease causes all kinds of changes in sleep patterns and this can lead to sleeping problems and also disrupts sleep for their caregivers. As Alzheimer’s progresses, the afflicted person may not sleep at all, may wake up shouting or stay awake all night. They may also wander and try to leave the house. Alzheimer’s may be accompanied with sundowning. As the sun begins to set, the demented senior may become more restless, aggressive and have hallucinations and delusions. To learn more about tips for managing sundown syndrome see our blog from May 3, 2018.  If you are caring for someone afflicted with Alzheimer’s dementia, make sure to lock up medicines, keep a gate on the stairs and keep the front door locked so they cannot wander out and get lost. Eventually, the time may come when you have to choose long-term care for your loved one who has Alzheimer’s.

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse NY

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse NY may be a good solution for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, as they are skilled in memory care and also can offer great recreational and therapy programs suitable for your loved one.


A good night’s sleep is important for proper functioning. For many reasons seniors have sleep problems and sometimes your doctor may need to prescribe medicines to help you or your loved one get a good night’s sleep.

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