According to the National Institutes of Health, it is a misconception that as we get older, our sleep needs decline. However, it is true that older adults often do not get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. The reasons cited for this may include:
- Poor sleep habits. Older adults can experience a shift in circadian rhythm that causes them to become sleepy in the early evening and to wake up to early in the morning. Alcohol before bedtime or daytime napping can also affect the ability to sleep.
- Medications. Some drugs may impair a person’s ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, and may even stimulate wakefulness at night.
- Psychological or psychiatric disorders. The life events of aging can affect the quality and quantity of sleep. For example, the death of a loved one, moving from a family home, or physical limitations due to illness can cause stress and sleep problems.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is caused by blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses during sleep, causing a pause in breathing, which can last from 10 seconds or longer and can happen up to hundreds of time during the night. OSA has been linked with three of the four leading causes of death – heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – and nearly half of those who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it until their sleeping partner recognizes the snoring.
- Retirement. Extra downtime and less daytime activity can lead to an irregular sleep-wake schedule and chronic sleep problems.
Additionally older people tend to spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep. Whatever the cause of sleepless nights, it is particularly important that people age 50 and older get a good night’s sleep. The National Institutes of Health study relates that the lack of rest may increase the risk of memory problems and depression, interfere with the ability to cope with chronic medical conditions, and contribute to dangerous falls.
If you are not sleeping well or not feeling rested after sleeping, it is recommended that you discuss this with your physician. He or she may prescribe a sleep study. The results of the sleep study can help your physician diagnose sleep disorders, leading to better sleep and better overall health.
What is a Sleep Study?
One common diagnostic test is a PSG (polysomnogram), which consists of monitoring various body and brain function while you sleep. A technologist applies several small electrodes to your scalp, face, chest, abdomen and legs. The electrodes are then connected to a computer, which records the body and brain activities during the night (or day for those who work at night). The recorded data is analyzed and reviewed by a sleep specialist. Your referring physician will receive your results, then review them with you and discuss treatment options. A physician referral is necessary to participate in a sleep study.
Answer Yes or No to the following questions:
1. Do you feel sleepy during the day, even when you get a good night’s sleep?
2. Have you been told or suspect you stop breathing while asleep?
3. Do you often wake up at night and have trouble falling back asleep?
4. Have you been told you snore loudly?
5. Have you fallen asleep at inappropriate times, such as while driving or in the middle of a conversation?
6. Do you have morning headaches?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may have a sleeping problem and be a candidate for a sleep study at La Porte Hospital’s Sleep Medicine department. To learn more about La Porte Hospital’s Sleep Medicine Department, call 219-325-4633 or visit https://www.laportehealth.com/sleep-care .