The Hidden Dangers of Sleeping Meds for Seniors – And What to Try Instead posted on: 08-21-2018

Learn about senior sleep issues and medication from North River Home Care in Cape Cod.

What’s better than waking up well rested after a good night’s sleep, fully energized and ready to face the day? For many older adults – as many as a third of them – getting sufficient sleep only happens in their dreams. And sadly, it’s a common assumption that poor sleep is simply 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 wants to dispel.

According to 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.”

Rather than simply tossing and turning, nearly 40% of seniors with sleep problems are relying on sleeping medications – something that is increasingly risky as we grow older. Sleeping meds double the risk of falls and fractures in older adults, due to the increased dizziness and disorientation they can cause. Older adults are also at risk of becoming dependent on these types of medications. And, the risk for car accidents is also increased, according to Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign.

And the concern about sleeping medications extends to herbal remedies and supplements as well, which place seniors at risk for a variety of additional side effects. Even something as seemingly innocuous as melatonin can interact with other common prescriptions, such as those for diabetes and high 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 name just a few) and to receive his or her recommendations on how to safely improve sleep. Several safer alternatives include:

  • Limit 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 each day
  • Engage the services of a skilled sleep therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy

North River Home Care can help in a variety of ways as well. Our fully trained and experienced in-home caregivers can help seniors stay active during the day with exercise programs, fun outings, and more, setting the stage for a better night’s sleep. Call us at 781.659.1366 to learn more.