7 Ways to Help an Elderly Parent with Sundowners Syndrome Sleep Better
Practical ways you can help your parent sleep
How to help dementia patients sleep better
As you age your body produces lower levels of growth hormone, so you’ll likely experience a decrease in slow wave or deep sleep (an especially refreshing part of the sleep cycle). When this happens you produce less melatonin, meaning you’ll often experience more fragmented sleep and wake up more often during the night.
Older people wake up more often because they spend less time deep sleep. Other causes include needing to get up and urinate (nocturia), anxiety, and discomfort or pain from long-term (chronic) illnesses. Sleep difficulty is an annoying problem.
Leading experts believe that as dementia changes brain cells, it also affects a person’s circadian rhythms. When circadian rhythms get disrupted, the individual often confuses morning and evening. These changes lead dementia individuals to become tired during the day, take many naps, and then stay up during the night.
An upset in the “internal body clock, ” causing a biological mix-up between day and night. Reduced lighting can increase shadows and may cause the person living with the disease to misinterpret what they see and, subsequently, become more agitated.
The FDA has approved Belsomra® to address insomnia in people living with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Belsomra is thought to inhibit the activity of orexin, a type of neurotransmitter involved in the sleep-wake cycle.
In the elderly, nonbenzodiazepines such as zolpidem, eszopiclone, zaleplon, and ramelteon are safer and better tolerated than tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, and benzodiazepines. Pharmacotherapy should be recommended only after sleep hygiene is addressed, however.
Temazepam is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine for insomnia. Therefore, based on current utilization patterns, the following section will review pertinent data on temazepam, trazodone, zolpidem, and the newest nonbenzodiazepine—zaleplon—for the treatment of insomnia in elderly patients.
Younger adults (18 to 25 years old): Should average seven to nine hours per day. Adults (26 to 64): Should average seven to nine hours per day. Older adults (age 65 and over): Should average seven to nine hours per day.
Falling asleep with the TV disrupts the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for making you feel sleepy and wanting to rest. Your body starts producing it when evening falls since that is the natural sign that indicates that the time for sleeping is coming.
Sometimes it’s just a sign of interrupted nighttime sleeping due to poor sleep habits, an uncomfortable environment, the aches and pains of aging or a side effect of medications. But excessive daytime sleep in the elderly can also point to impaired nighttime breathing and other sleep disorders.