Sleep patterns naturally change as you get older. Compared
to younger people, older adults:
It's common for older adults to sleep less deeply and for less
time than they did earlier in life. But these normal changes in the sleep
patterns of older adults do not mean that the sleep they get is enough.
Routine poor-quality sleep
caused by health problems, medicine use, and stress from major life changes can
lead to chronic sleep problems at any age. This may increase the risk of
serious health problems, such as
depression. But few older adults get, or try to get,
treatment for sleep problems. If you are an older adult and have trouble
sleeping, talk to your doctor about what you can do to improve your
Tips for improving sleep for older adults
Here are some things you can try:
If you care for an older adult who isn't sleeping well, you
might encourage him or her to try the above tips for improving sleep.
taking sleep medicines only now and then or only for a short time. They are not
the first choice for treating chronic insomnia. This advice about medicines
applies to everyone, but especially to older adults. Anyone can become dependent on sleep medicines, and these medicines can affect how
well older people think during and after long-term use.1
Martin JL, et al. (2007). Sleep disorders. In RJ Ham et al., eds., Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach, 5th ed., pp. 391–400. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
December 1, 2011
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
& Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
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