Caution: Sleeping Pills May Be Dangerous to Senior Health
Could there be anything better than getting up well rested after a good night’s sleep, completely energized and able to face the day? For some older adults – as much as a third of them – getting sufficient sleep only occurs inside their dreams. And unfortunately, it’s a common assumption that poor sleep is merely something to be accepted in our later years – a misconception that Preeti Malani, M.D., chief health officer and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan really wants to dispel.
As stated by Dr. Malani, “If older adults believe that these changes are a normal, inevitable part of aging, they may not think of it as something to discuss with their doctor. And not discussing it can potentially lead to health issues not being identified and managed.”
Instead of merely tossing and turning, as many as 40% of seniors with sleep problems are counting on sleeping medications – something which is frequently risky once we grow older. Sleeping meds double the chance of falls and fractures in seniors, because of the increased dizziness and disorientation they can cause. Older adults may also be at risk of becoming reliant upon these kinds of medications. And, the risk for motor vehicle collisions can also be increased, based on Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign.
The concern about sleeping medications extends to herbal treatments and supplements as well, which place seniors at risk for a variety of additional unwanted effects. Even something as apparently innocuous as melatonin can interact with other common prescriptions, such as those for diabetes and raised blood pressure, and also cause dizziness and nausea.
The first step in addressing sleep concerns for seniors is to talk with the doctor to rule out any underlying conditions (such as depression, anxiety, restless legs syndrome, or even heart disease, to mention just a few) and also to receive his / her recommendations on how to safely improve sleep. Several safer alternatives include:
- Restrict alcohol and caffeine, particularly in the afternoon and evening
- Keep all electronic devices out of the bedroom, and keep the sleeping environment dark and cool
- Set a sleeping pattern and stick to it, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- Engage the services of a sleep therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy
CareWorks Health Services, one of the top home health agencies in Huntington Beach and the surrounding areas, can help improve senior health and increase sufficient sleep in lots of ways as well. Our fully trained and experienced Huntington Beach area in-home caregivers can assist seniors in staying active during the day with exercise programs, fun outings, and more, setting the stage for an improved night’s sleep and enhanced senior health. Contact us online or call us at (949) 859-4700 for more information.