Lisa Conway – Hometown News

Q: Does the need for sleep change with age?

A:  Sleep problems and disorders become unfortunately common with age. A person may have trouble falling asleep or not being able to stay asleep as long as they once did. Others wake up frequently, unable to get the quality of sleep they need.  Sleep disturbances causes include primary sleep disorders, medical conditions, medications and even common everyday substances.

Seniors may experience:

  • Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or restless sleep.
  • Sleep apnea – breathing interruptions during sleep
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS) – the overwhelming need to move the legs during sleep
  • Periodic limb movement disorder – involuntary movement of the limbs during sleep
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders – a disrupted sleep-wake cycle

Medical conditions can interfere with sleep, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, neurological, gastrointestinal, or respiratory conditions and bladder control issues. Medications contributing to sleep disruption include diuretics, steroids, anticholinergics, H2 blockers, adrenergic medications, antidepressants and others.  Coffee, alcohol and smoking are well known for disturbing a night’s rest.

A change in sleep patterns warrants discussion with a physician, who may do a physical examination and/or ask you to keep a sleep log. A sleep study test may be ordered if the physician suspects a primary sleep disorder.

Tips to increase the quality and quantity of sleep:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time consistently (avoid naps)
  • Avoid bright lights, engage in calming activities before bedtime
  • Create a soothing, darkened environment for sleep
  • Use the bed for sleep and sex only (not a host of other activities)

Healthful sleep is vital for our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Medical conditions are discussed monthly during ‘Ask the Doctor’ and ‘Senior Health Friday with Nurse Lisa’ at One Senior Place. The events calendar at lists upcoming topics.

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.comLisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.