Why Do Elderly People Sleep So Much?

Senior man sleeping on chair with glasses on and hands folded on chest.Most people assume that the elderly spend most of their time sleeping. This is reinforced in books and on TV where it is not unusual for an older character to doze off at all hours of the day. Now, for many seniors, perhaps including you, this isn’t a stereotype but a reality of life. You may catch yourself falling asleep throughout the day. So, does this mean that you actually sleep more hours than anybody else? Also, do you need a higher number of hours of sleep than other age groups?

Well, let’s first answer the question of just how long seniors need to sleep. According to sources like The Sleep District, elderly individuals don’t actually need to sleep much longer than the average adult. This means that regardless of your age, you should be only getting about seven to eight hours of sleep a day.

So, then, if this is true, why do you feel sleepy throughout the day? Why does it feel like you are always ready for a nap? There are actually a number of reasons why you feel like you need to sleep during the daytime. Let’s take a look at them here:

Waking Up During the Night

One of the top reasons that you may feel the need to rest in the daytime is because you are not getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep-related issues become more common the older you get. As a result, you may find that you sleep more lightly or keep waking up during the night. A number of people also find themselves getting up quite early and being unable to fall asleep again. So, why do you wake up so often at night?

Nocturia

Do you wake up numerous times during the night feeling as though you need to go to the bathroom? If so, you should know that you are not alone. Both men and women over a certain age often wake up needing to relieve themselves. If this is something that you are experiencing, one of the first things you will need to do is to eliminate any medical conditions as the cause. So, it is a good idea for you to consult a doctor and make certain that you aren’t suffering from any health issues. If you are in the pink of health and are still waking up, you might want to try drinking less fluids closer to your bedtime.

Dementia

senior woman with dementia looking confused
Dementia is a usually slow, progressive memory loss that affects seniors and their families as well.

Individuals who have been diagnosed with dementia are also more likely to suffer from sleeping problems. This makes it difficult for them to sleep throughout the night, at a stretch. One of the reasons is that dementia can cause actual structural changes to the brain which, in turn, can make it difficult for you to fall and stay asleep. Another reason could because people with dementia tend to wander about at nighttime as well. Some of the solutions to this problem include setting proper sleeping schedules and environments for people diagnosed with dementia. This means that they should be exposed to bright light through the day and be kept in a darker environment at night. On top of this, their bedtime and the time that they wake up should be the same every day.

Increased Levels of Boredom

Now, you may notice that the older you get, the less active you are during the day. You may begin to lead a more sedentary lifestyle and limit the number of activities you do. Or else, you are afflicted with certain physical conditions that make it difficult for you to get up and move around. Well, boredom is one of the reasons that you may be dozing off at odd hours. When you have nothing else to do, your brain and body may be just drifting off into slumber. Well, one of the ways to prevent this is to increase the amount of exercise you get. Or, try to take up some low impact activities like doing puzzles, knitting, and getting involved in online communities.

Side Effect of Medications

lots of medication and pills on a tableAlthough you may not realize it, your medication could be to blame for your constant state of drowsiness. This is especially true if you are taking several medications together. When combined, these drugs may react in a certain way that causes you to feel sleepy during the day. There are also some medications that have side-effects that include sleepiness.

If you think your medication is causing an excessive need to sleep, then it is time to talk to your doctor. They may find that you need a different assortment of medications. Or, it simply could be that the dosage of the drugs you are taking need to be changed. In some instances, it is just a matter of changing the time you take your medication. This way, it will not impact your day in any way.

Depression

When most people think of depression, they associate it with feelings of sadness, apathy, and hopelessness. While all of this is still true for elderly individuals with depression, there may be other symptoms that take center stage instead. These include a loss of energy, feelings of fatigue, and sleeping problems at night. All of this culminates in you sleeping more often during the day.

So, if you have noticed that you are sleeping more, you may also want to check your general state of mind and emotions as well. If you feel as though something is off or that you are in a depressed mood that you are unable to get out of, you may require expert help. Doctors or psychologists can provide you with counseling and medication to help improve your situation. In turn, you will find that your sleeping patterns improve and that you don’t sleep quite as much during the day.

As you can see, there are a number of different reasons why you may be sleeping quite so much. What you need to understand, however, is that it is not a good idea to spend your day snoozing. So, if you feel that it is becoming a problem, it is important to seek assistance. By resolving the issues that are causing your sleep problems, you will find that you are able to lead a richer and more fulfilling life.

Scott’s Note: This post was contributed by Joi Bellis of The Sleep District to educate my readers on reasons that some elderly people may sleep a lot. I received no compensation for this article.

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