If you’re not sleeping as well as you used to, these conditions that come with aging may be to blame.
Do you ever find yourself getting mad because you can’t just shut down and go to sleep? Maybe you wake up multiple times during the night or experience daytime sleepiness. You could be one of the 67 percent of older adults who suffer from insomnia symptoms at least a few nights a week, according to the National Sleep Foundation. As we age, sleeplessness may become more of an issue. Here are some of the top causes of insomnia for older adults.
1. Circadian Rhythm
Aging causes our circadian rhythms to change and become less consistent, which makes us more susceptible to insomnia, according to the National Institutes of Health. We become sleepy earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. When we try to fight our body’s natural instincts by attempting to stay awake or sleep later, it often becomes a losing battle.
Try to make a shift in your thinking. Figure out what you can get done at 4:30 a.m. the same as you could later in the day. Listen to your body. Just because your mind thinks it’s too early to get up and you should sleep longer doesn’t make it so. Maybe use this time to meditate and enjoy the rising of the sun and the promise of a new day.
Women are twice as likely to suffer from insomnia compared to men, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Researchers have found that the effects of hormonal changes in women during menopause, like hot flashes and mood swings, can cause erratic sleep patterns.
Find a physician or nurse practitioner who can help you with this. I’m so mad at myself for suffering for the last three years before I did anything about this. With bioidentical hormones and monitoring, I’m sleeping again and the foggy brain is lifting. Yay! I feel normal again.
3. Medical Conditions
Insomnia can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as GERD, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
4. Mental Health Disorders
General stress may be one of the biggest culprits of all, sapping our body of much-needed sleep. More than 50 percent of all insomnia cases are caused by anxiety, depression, or psychological stress, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. What’s more, insomnia itself can aggravate or worsen already existing mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
One of the best and easiest ways to help calm the mind and increase sleep is to just BREATHE. By focusing on the breath you can calm the chaotic thinking. Imagine you’re taking a blackout curtain across your thoughts with each exhale. Try to stay focused on everything associated with the breath: the movement of your abdomen and chest; the length of your breath going in and out of the body. This single-minded focus has been proven to calm the mind.
Both over-the-counter and prescription medication can affect our sleep patterns. Medication that treats hypertension, heart disease, depression – especially SSRIs – Alzheimer’s disease, colds and allergies, joint pain, neurological disorders and high cholesterol may all contribute to sleeplessness.
I know some medications are absolutely necessary. I would encourage you to always be mindful of what you put into your mouth. Sometimes we don’t think about the meds we’re taking. Medication can affect our basic metabolism and the body’s ability to function at a premium level. If you do take a lot of medications, always review with your doctor to see what meds you can reduce or eliminate with exercise and diet changes.
Simple lifestyle changes can help prevent difficulty falling asleep:
- Exercise daily – no later than 30 minutes before bedtime
- Avoid stimulants, like caffeine, nicotine and certain medications
- Avoid alcohol
- Eat more food that’s been grown from the earth and not from a box
- Adopt a bedtime routine, like reading, that helps you unwind before sleep
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Make your bedroom a technology-free zone
Natural sleep aids, like Valerian, Chamomile or Melatonin, may also help you achieve restful sleep. However, before starting any sleep medication regimen—over-the-counter or prescription—it’s important to talk to your doctor to prevent any possible drug interactions.