Friday, December 5, 2008

Sleep problems of Senior Citizens

Sleep problems of Senior Citizens

(Dr P Vyasamoorthy)


Are you like me? I can not get back to sleep for hours after getting up around 2 am to attend nature's call. Well, this is only one of the several known sleep issues of Old Age.

Nearly 67% of old people suffer from: difficulty in falling asleep, waking up without being refreshed, brief stoppages of breathing or snoring etc. Nearly a third of all women crossing menopause suffer from short term insomnia. Let us see what can be done with reference to common problems related to sleeping.

Before retiring to bed take a cup of warm milk or shower or read a book or try to write a letter. This will induce sleep. Avoid heavy dinner. Say No to alcohol. Pee before popping into bed. Don't be lazy on this count. Keep the bedroom cozy – not too cool, not too stuffy, sufficiently dark -- just right to relax. Go to bed at an appointed time. Make sleeping a routine. For normal people it takes 5 to 7 minutes to pass into sleep. You may take around 15 minutes. Don't panic.

If you get up during the night to go to the toilet and can not get back to sleep, just get up and start reading a book. Or start writing a letter. Or Solve Sudoku or some crossword puzzle from where you left. Such activities will quickly make you sleepy again. Alternately do not indulge in activities that may make you totally awake. I used to brush my teeth, wash my face and drink some water. I used to become so fresh and awake that getting back to sleep is almost impossible.

Many of us may not have compulsions to wake up at appointed time say 6 am in the morning – No milk man, servant maid, paper boy or Safai Walah to attend to. If you are that fortunate then allow yourself to toss in the bed for sufficiently long time. You can get back to sleep automatically after an hour two. But you may wake up late. So what? If you can afford this luxury why not simply go ahead? Try and find out what helps you. After all, each individual is different.

Sleeping safely is also necessary and important for senior citizens, especially those living alone. Keep a glass of water, telephone and switch for a lamp or a Torch light handy.

Some may like to keep hearing aids, walking stick, spectacles, mobile phone or other accessories also handy, but at designated places. Remove rugs that may trip you while walking. Don't keep Mosquito coil so near that your clothes may catch fire. Most importantly don't ever smoke in the bed.

Most of the advice given here are so common place that senior citizens might have read about them many times. But the secret is in heading to the advice! If after taking these simple measures you do not get relief you must see a doctor.  Conditions like depression, arthritis, kidney disease, heart failure, asthma, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, Parkinson's disease and hyperthyroidism may cause chronic insomnia. This requires proper medical attention.

All said and done we should not be foolish to take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night, as advised by Dave Barry.



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