According to the National Institute of Health, adult insomnia is the number one sleep disorder in people age 60 and over. It’s so prevalent that most people think it’s a natural part of aging. The truth is, though, that while there are changes in sleep patterns that occur with age, it can still be a cause of concern. That’s because, very often, underlying medical issues are hiding behind the face of insomnia.
What Does Adult Insomnia Really Mean?
Good question. When you think of insomnia, you might picture someone tossing and turning all night, unable to fall asleep. While sleepless nights definitely fall under the insomnia umbrella, it can also mean:
- Difficulty falling asleep even when you’re very tired
- Falling asleep easily but waking up frequently during the night for no apparent reason
- Waking up unusually early and not falling back asleep
The consequences of insomnia are anything but pleasant. Irritability, lethargy, lack of concentration, and just plain feeling lousy all occur when the body doesn’t get the rest it needs. As we age, lack of sleep can impact our motor skills, too, which means an increased risk of falling. As if that weren’t enough, “anxiety, depression, fatigue, worse quality of life, cognitive decline, and a variety of other worse long-term health outcomes” are all associated with insomnia.
When Insomnia Is Only the Symptom
As we mentioned, sometimes insomnia is really the only issue. In that case, your physician or the team at your residence can suggest ways for you to sleep optimize your environment. Often, that’s enough to do the trick.
Often, though, insomnia is just the symptom. If you or your loved one is complaining of any kind of chronic lack of sleep, there might be a medical condition behind it. Here’s a list of questions and issues to ask them – or yourself.
1) Do you snore?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, close to one-third of all Americans snore when they sleep. But exceptionally loud snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA causes temporarily impaired breathing and a rise in blood pressure, and it can have a significant negative effect on your sleep. Fortunately it can be treated, so see your doctor.
2) Do your limbs twitch or jerk in the middle of the night?
Restless legs syndrome is one of those things expectant mothers are familiar with, but it becomes quite prevalent as we age, too – and it can wreak havoc on your shut-eye time.
3) Do you have heartburn?
Heartburn – the fancy name for it is gastroesophageal reflux disease – is cause when there’s a backup of stomach acid into the esophagus. Lying down makes it worse, so heartburn can definitely keep you up at night. If that’s the case, stay away from heavy or fatty foods in the evening. If you don’t cook for yourself, ask your resident manager to assist you in adjusting your menu.
4) Are you in pain?
Chronic pain is a sure-fire recipe for sleep problems. Don’t ignore it. If you’re suffering and you don’t know why, make an appointment with your primary physician. Today.
5) Have you had a physical lately?
Heart failure, asthma, diabetes and kidney issues can all affect your sleep. If you’re suffering from adult insomnia and you haven’t had a physical in a while, call your doctor and schedule one. As scary as disease can be, lack of sleep will only make things worse.
Have you experienced insomnia and dealt with it? Please let us know in the comments below!