The elderly need their sleep to restore their body as much as anyone else. The fact is, anyone who gets enough sleep, will have the ability to concentrate better, improve their memory and strengthen their immune system which helps to prevent diseases. For many in the elderly population, sleep is a challenge. As we age there are specific changes which naturally occur such as a decrease in hormones in the body that affect sleep cycles in a negative way. Rapid sleep cycles are increased and deep sleep cycles are decreased resulting in waking up more often during the night, not feeling rested in the morning or being tired during the day. This is known as insomnia and often is a symptom rather than a condition caused by underlying causes that can be treated. This is why there is no one cure for insomnia, rather it must be investigated to find each the root cause case by case.
In some cases, sleep and falling asleep is difficult, especially for people who have had a heart attack, suffered a loss or are depressed. Their difficulty to sleep may continue even after this short-term trauma has been overcome. This is because sleep and the act of falling asleep is a learned behavior and becomes a habit that is harder to change the longer that it has been practiced. This involves changing sleep habits, sleep schedules and belief systems around the sleep. Sometimes in the short-term sleeping pills can be used to help re-learn and change habits to sleep or fall asleep, but they must remain short term as not to become a psychological aid rather than sleep aid.
Just how much sleep an older person needs is a matter of dispute. Research now shows that a nap during the day up to 30 minutes is helpful and doesn’t disrupt sleep during the night. Also drinking coffee during the latter part of the day can really affect sleep through the increased amount of caffeine. And while alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first it actually impairs the ability to stay asleep and rest.