Friday, September 02, 2011
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Sleeplessness is not a normal part of aging. The September issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter looks at the myriad of causes that can contribute to sleep difficulties in older adults. Most of the underlying causes of sleeplessness can be treated, and sleep may return to normal.
Causes of sleeplessness include:
Sleep disorders: Sleep-related leg cramps, obstructive sleep apnea, periodic leg and arm movements and restless legs syndrome can interfere with sleep. A Mayo Clinic study of aging adults found that more than half of 892 participants had signs of at least one sleep disorder other than insomnia.
Pain: Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep often are related to poor pain control for heartburn, arthritis, back pain and other health concerns.
Nighttime urination: The urge to urinate is a common reason that older adults wake at night.
Illness: Coughing, shortness of breath and even itching can disrupt sleep. Mental health conditions, such as depression, often are associated with sleep difficulties.
Medications: Many medications can interfere with sleep. Some include nonprescription decongestants, pain relievers containing caffeine, some antidepressants and corticosteroids.
Menopause: About half of the women in menopause report sleep difficulties such as hot flashes and night sweats.
It's important to talk to a doctor when sleep is elusive. Sleep patterns change with age. But in general, getting less than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis interferes with concentration, memory and making decisions. Ongoing sleep deprivation even interferes with the ability to recognize fatigue.
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