Getting enough good sleep is vastly undervalued in today’s society. People like to brag about being able to function on only a few hours of sleep at night. Researchers have discovered in recent years that sleep deprivation can lead to cognitive decline, diabetes, obesity, depression and other problems. If you have trouble sleeping, you need to find the root cause. Here are some of the things that can cause insomnia in seniors.

  • If you experience severe insomnia despite your best efforts, you might need to talk to your doctor. Sometimes insomnia is a sign of a medical problem, like sleep apnea. Treating the underlying cause can reduce or eliminate your sleep issues.
  • The prescriptions you take for your health might be sabotaging your sleep and making you unhealthy. Ask your doctor if any of your medications could be causing or contributing to your inability to sleep well. Find out if there are other drugs you could take that will not interfere with your nighttime rest.
  • Many people count the days until they can throw away the alarm clock when they retire. One of the side effects of staying up as late as you want and sleeping in, is your body clock can lose its way. If you do not keep a regular schedule, your body might release melatonin in the afternoon, making you groggy and make sleep elusive at night.
  • Taking a nap too late in the day or for too long can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon is ideal for napping. You should set an alarm so you do not nap too long. The optimal nap length will vary from one person to the next, but the usual range is between 20 minutes and one hour.
  • Menopause can cause women to wake up multiple times during the night, because of hot flashes and night sweats. Wear pajamas that wick away moisture. Avoid bedding material that can hold heat, like memory foam mattresses. Make sure your sheets, pillows, and pillowcases have cooling technology.
  • The blue light in cell phones, tablets, and computers can interfere with the body’s ability to produce melatonin. Without melatonin, you might have difficulty falling or staying asleep. The standard recommendation is to “unplug” by turning off these devices about an hour before you want to go to sleep. For some people, blue light exposure during the three or four hours before bedtime can cause insomnia. Sleep researchers say you can still watch television and use your devices in the evening if you wear special glasses that block blue light.
  • Some people can drink a nightcap shortly before bed and fall asleep without any difficulty. A glass of wine or a cocktail can help you relax and de-stress, but for some people, an alcoholic drink can mess up your sleep cycle, causing you to wake up during the night and not get to enjoy deep sleep. Experts recommend you have that drink or two several hours before you want to go to sleep.

References:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. “Can’t Sleep? Here Are 11 Surprising Causes.” (accessed September 23, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2019/have-trouble-sleeping.html