Why Do Elderly Sleep So Much

If you’ve noticed an elderly family member or partner snoozes a lot during the day, it’s because they are likely not getting enough sleep at night.

Sleep needs change with age. School-age children should sleep for 9-11 hours. Adolescents should get 8-10 hours of sleep and adults 7-9 hours.

For seniors, the recommended sleep period is roughly the same; 7-8 hours.

But most elderly people don’t actually sleep that long at night. That’s because seniors take longer to sleep, don’t sleep as deeply and are more sensitive to disturbances that disrupt their sleep.

By morning, they’ve not really gotten their nightly quota of sleep. They make up for it by napping on the sofa during the day.

So if you notice them frequently snoozing off when watching TV or at the dinner table, it’s because they did not have a restful night.

There are other factors that might also be contributing to their sleepiness, some of them related to health.

1. Boredom and Loneliness

Loneliness is a serious problem among the elderly in the UK. Millions of seniors live alone and many go for over a month without speaking to anyone.

Even for those living with a friend, partner or family member, they can still get bored because they don’t have much to do.

Maybe their mobility is limited or they have no interest in pursuing hobbies.

They are bound to get bored watching TV all day. So snoozing off during the day becomes a habit even if they are not tired.

How you can help:

  • Introduce them to the local senior centre. This will give them an opportunity to socialise and find activities to keep them occupied.
  • If they can still move around comfortably, help them find hobbies and activities they like such as gardening, bird watching or painting.
  • Create a routine to ensure they don’t spend all day sitting in front of the TV. It can include simple errands, some easy chores and hobbies. Being active is also good for their health.

2. Depression

With boredom and loneliness, depression can easily set in and make things worse. Poor health, disability and financial problems can also lead to depression in seniors.

One of the symptoms of depression in the elderly is a change in sleeping pattern. This occurs in one of two ways.

They might be unable to sleep properly at night, thus sleeping more during the day.

They might also experience increased fatigue and tiredness, leading to more sleep than normal during the day and at night.

If you notice this change as well as other symptoms like loss of appetite, lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed and feelings of guilt or shame, they might be suffering from depression.

How you can help:

  • See your GP for advice. They will ask your elderly loved one to come in for a diagnosis. Depending on severity of symptoms, they might recommend simple self-care tips or a combination of therapy and medication.
  • Working with a doctor or therapist, find out the underlying causes of the depression and work on them. For instance, if they are feeling lonely, a senior centre is a good idea. If they are bored, help them get into hobbies and other activities.

3. Poor Health and Medication

Excessive sleepiness can be direct symptom of a disease. Other times, it can be caused by fatigue that is in turn caused by the illness.

Like depression, they might also be sleeping a lot during the day because their sickness keeps them from sleeping well at night.

If you are worried that they are sleeping too much, talk to your doctor. It might be an undiagnosed disease that’s causing it.

If they are already diagnosed with an illness, it could also be the medication that is making them sleepy.

Even antidepressants can cause sleepiness. Talk to your doctor about changing the dosage or medication if their sleepiness is interfering with their safety or quality of life (e.g. they are neglecting their social life or hobbies to sleep).

How you can help:

  • See your doctor to make sure it is not an undiagnosed disease.
  • If you suspect it’s their medicine causing the sleepiness, see if your doctor can change the dosage or medicine. Sometimes, changing when they take medicine can help them stay alert during the day.
  • Also check that it’s not the medicine’s interactions with other drugs that is making them sleepy.

4. Alzheimer’s

In a new study, sleep researchers say that loss of sleep is a precursor to Alzheimer’s. Seniors in the early stages of Alzheimer’s sleep for less time at night.

The more severe the sleep loss, the more likely they are to develop the mental condition.

This can lead to sleepiness during the day.

So if you notice they are sleeping less at night and making up for it with frequent daytime naps, it’s a good idea to have them checked out.

What you can do to help:

  • See a doctor for diagnosis. The doctor will ask additional questions to rule out other problems such as a sleep disorder or an illness.

Read also: What’s The Best Reading Lamp For Elderly On The Market? 

5. Sleep Disorder

Sleep disorders and especially insomnia are common among the elderly.

These result in inadequate sleep at night, causing sleepiness and fatigue during the day.

Most sleep disorders in seniors are caused by other factors such as dementia, depression, an underlying health condition and medication.

What you can do to help:

  • If you suspect they have a sleeping disorder, see your doctor. They might refer you to a sleep specialist depending on the severity of the condition.
  • If the disorder is caused by an underlying problem such as anxiety, seek professional help for that as well.
  • Institute a healthy sleep routine, making sure they sleep and wake up the same time every day. Staying active during the day, eating healthy and avoiding TV just before bed can also help prevent insomnia.

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