Senior Sleep: Why It’s So Important

Older adults ages 65 and above need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 1 in 3 older adults fail to meet the minimum requirement of sleep each night. While some older adults might prefer to change their sleeping patterns as they age, such as going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier, the amount of sleep they need doesn’t differ much compared to their younger years. However, there are many different reasons older adults might not be getting adequate sleep. For some, feeling sick, experiencing pain and the increased frequency of urination can affect the overall quality of sleep. As we age, our risk of health problems increases and the medications used to treat these issues can actually interfere with our sleep duration and quality. Although it’s common for older adults to experience changes in their sleep, it’s important to resolve these issues, as sleep is responsible for maintaining many functions of the body.

Importance of Sleep for the Body

We rely on sleep to carry us through the day and give our bodies energy to function properly. Getting adequate rest each night allows our blood pressure to regulate itself, reducing the chances of high blood pressure and other sleep-related conditions. Our mental health is also impacted by sleep. Research suggests a link between lack of sleep and increased risk of depression. In fact, a recent study suggests that sleep is a contributing factor in deaths by suicide. A lack of sleep can also impact our ability to relate to and connect with others. Some studies have even suggested that a person’s emotional empathy, or the ability to recognize and relate to other people’s emotions and expressions, is less when they don’t get enough sleep.

Adequate, high-quality sleep gives our bodies time to repair themselves. In fact, research shows a link between sleep and reducing inflammation in the body. For example, those with gastrointestinal diseases have an increased risk of flare-ups during periods of sleep deprivation. Sleep helps the body regenerate and recover, allowing the body to better fight off infection and illness.

Aging and Sleep Quality

It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience changes in their sleep quality as they age. According to the Sleep Foundation, our body’s “master clock,” located in the brain’s hypothalamus is composed of 20,000 cells that make up the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which controls our circadian rhythms. These circadian rhythms influence our daily cycles, like when we get hungry, tired and when certain hormones are released in the body. As we age, so does our SCN. Deterioration in the function of the SCN can disrupt these rhythms, affecting when we feel tired and alert.

Light serves as one of the most powerful cues in maintaining circadian rhythms. Older adults are less likely to get efficient exposure to sunlight, which can affect the functioning of the SCN and throw off our circadian rhythms. As we age, the body secretes less melatonin, which can also play a role in disrupted sleep.

Common Sleep Issues in Older Adults

It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience sleep issues that result in sleep deprivation or other related side effects. Researchers suggest that more than half of older adults suffer from insomnia. Chronic sleep problems can interfere with our body’s ability to regulate itself, complete daily activities, and decrease our quality of life. According to the Sleep Foundation, common sleep changes with age include:

Pain. Discomfort can cause sleep disturbances including poor quality of sleep or waking up in the middle of the night. This can be especially disruptive for those with chronic pain disorders like arthritis, nerve damage, and lower back pain.
Nighttime urination. Frequent nighttime urination, or nocturia, affects nearly 70% of men and 75% of women above the age of 70. Nighttime urination can disturb sleep patterns and increase the risk of fall-related injuries.
Daytime drowsiness. Excessive daytime sleepiness is often a sign of other underlying sleep issues like sleep apnea. In addition, it can also be a warning sign of cognitive impairment or cardiovascular diseases.
Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when there are pauses in breathing during sleep. This can occur when there is a repeated or partial collapse of the upper airway. Symptoms can include headaches, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating.
Restless leg syndrome. This causes an urge to move the legs while resting or sleeping and can result in involuntary movements of the legs or feet. Restless leg syndrome can affect 10 to 35% of people over 65, impacting sleep and quality of life.
Insomnia. Those who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep may suffer from insomnia. Those with insomnia might experience daytime sleepiness or other cognitive impairments related to sleep deprivation.

Sleep Tips for Seniors

There are many ways you can improve your sleep by keeping a bedtime routine, setting yourself up for a restful night, and reevaluating your diet. If you struggle with getting adequate sleep, here are a few places to start:

Establish a bedtime routine
Finding a consistent bedtime routine that works for you will remind your body that it’s time to prepare for sleep. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day will help get your body into a routine. Developing bedtime rituals such as taking a bath, playing music or meditating can also help you wind down before bed.

Setting up your environment
When we use our bedrooms for more than sleeping, our bodies can get confused when it’s time to rest. Watching TV or using a computer while in bed for long periods of time should be avoided. Make sure to block out noise that might disturb you like turning off the television or using a white noise machine. Keep your bedroom dark and cool as light and heat can cause sleep problems, especially for older adults.

Make healthy choices
Diet can actually play a big role in your quality of sleep. Make sure to limit caffeine, especially later in the day, and avoid alcohol before you go to sleep. Eating a full meal at dinnertime or having a light snack before bedtime will keep you from waking up hungry in the middle of the night. Be sure to cut down on sugary and processed foods as they can pull you out of the deep stages of sleep.

Staying Well Rested at Maplewood Senior Living

Sleep can positively or negatively impact our whole day. At Maplewood Senior Living, we offer meditation and relaxation classes, healthy meal options, and install safe lighting to make sure all residents have what they need for a restful night of sleep. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

What You Need to Know About Parkinson’s Disease

By definition, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects the area of the brain that controls movement. Brain changes caused by the disease can affect a person’s gait, facial expressions, posture and, as it progresses, can begin to interfere with memory and the ability to make sound judgments. Parkinson’s is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, Parkinson’s disease affects nearly 2% of older adults over the age of 65, accounting for nearly one million cases. The symptoms of Parkinson’s can look different on each person, depending on when the diagnosis occurs within the progression of the disease. However, there are some common symptoms most PD patients experience.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Those with Parkinson’s disease can experience both motor and non-motor symptoms. The first signs of Parkinson’s are often so subtle that they go unnoticed. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms tend to get worse. Here are the most common symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic :

Tremors in the face, legs, arms and hands. Tremors, which usually appear as shaking in the limbs, hands or fingers, are very common among Parkinson’s patients. Some people might experience hand trembling while resting or rubbing between the forefinger and thumb.

Rigidity. Muscle stiffness can occur in any part of the body and become painful if it lasts for long periods of time. Many people who experience rigidity have a limited range of motion and trouble walking.

Slowness. Parkinson’s can cause delayed movements and make basic daily tasks hard to complete. Other symptoms include walking with shorter steps or dragging your feet while walking.

Loss of automatic movements. Unconscious movements such as blinking, smiling and swallowing become more difficult as the disease progresses.

Changes in speech. Some individuals with Parkinson’s disease experience changes in their speech such as hesitation, softness, quickness of speech or slurring words.

Causes and Risk Factors

While researchers are still gathering data on Parkinson’s disease, we do know that there are several factors that increase the risk of developing the disease. Researchers have shown that some specific genetic mutations are directly related to Parkinson’s disease. However, it’s rare to develop these mutations unless the disease is present in many family members. There are also other mutations that increase the risk of PD, but do not directly cause the disease.
In addition, some researchers have suggested that ongoing exposure to toxins, such as herbicides and pesticides can slightly increase the risk of PD. It’s also been proven that older adults, most of whom are diagnosed around the age of 60, are more at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease when compared to younger adults, just as men are more at risk than women.

Related Health Conditions

Those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may experience other health concerns. These issues usually arise after the disease has progressed. These are some of the most common health conditions related to Parkinson’s disease according to the Mayo Clinic:

Dementia

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation , nearly one million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease. Of those diagnosed, nearly 50 percent to 80 percent may experience dementia. Most adults who develop dementia are diagnosed 10 years after the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Along with the typical symptoms of PD, some people with Parkinson’s disease dementia have reported changes in memory, muffled speech, visual hallucinations, depression, daytime drowsiness and anxiety.

Depression and Emotional Changes

These are common problems for those in any stage of the disease, especially for those who have been newly diagnosed. Other emotional changes such as fear, anxiety and loss of motivation are common and can be treated with medication.

Sleep Disorders

Those with Parkinson’s disease often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. Rapid eye movement, which involves acting out your dreams, is also common for those with the disease. These sleep disorders can cause fatigue, especially later in the day. Doctors and healthcare providers can prescribe medications to pacify these problems.

Bladder and Constipation

Some people with PD have reported issues with controlling their bladder and having difficulty urinating. Constipation also accompanies Parkinson’s disease due to the slowing of the digestive tract.

Changes in Blood Pressure

It’s not uncommon to feel lightheaded due to a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Pain

Because of the changes in the brain, PD patients often experience pain. This pain can be felt all over the body or concentrated in certain areas.

Treatment Options

While there is no standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease, there are some treatments designed to help manage the symptoms. Treatments can include medications to manage tremors, stress and sleep problems. Other alternatives, like surgery, is reserved for patients who have trouble managing tremors with medication. Traditionally, exercise and therapies are standard treatment options that help with improving flexibility and balance, while reducing rigidity.
Because there is a lot we do not understand about Parkinson’s disease, there are many clinical trials designed to gather more information. These trials include testing new treatments, such as medications, surgery or therapies on existing PD patients in hopes of creating a new successful treatment option.

Living with Parkinson’s Disease

Learning how to navigate life as Parkinson’s disease progresses can be difficult. As part of the diagnosis, the biggest challenges can be managing overall health and wellness including managing medication appropriately, getting enough exercise while remaining flexible and managing stress and anxiety. While some people living with the disease may wish to remain at home with a caregiver, other options, like assisted living, can provide additional support and peace of mind for the caretaker. Here are a few ways assisted living communities can help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:

Health and Wellness– A medical management team, provided at most assisted living communities, can help control symptoms of PD, while minimizing adverse effects. They can also provide individualized care planning, help with medication administration and provide nutritionally balanced and healthy meals reviewed by a Registered Dietician.
Exercise and Fitness– Exercise can slow down the disease progression and help enhance motor function. Assisted living communities offer daily group exercise classes, individual fitness programs and physical, occupational and speech therapies to help reduce the loss of motor function and increase flexibility.
Managing Stress and Anxiety– Unmanaged stress and anxiety can actually make PD symptoms, like tremors and rigidity, worse. Assisted living communities can help manage stress through psychology and psychiatry services, counseling, music therapy and social programs to connect residents that have similar challenges.

Managing Parkinson’s at Maplewood Senior Living

Because Parkinson’s disease is both a chronic and progressive illness, those who have been diagnosed need high-quality care both physically and emotionally. At Maplewood Senior Living , our assisted living communities are highly skilled in caring for those with Parkinson’s in many ways, such as providing medical attention and offering activities designed to promote physical and mental wellness. If you’re interested in learning more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, we would love to connect with you here.