It’s National Sleep Awareness Week, and there’s no better time to remind ourselves of how critical sleep is for physical, mental and emotional health — not just for seniors but for caregivers, too.
Sleep disorders are a significant source of concern — especially in the geriatric population. Changes in sleep patterns are part of the normal aging process, but sleep disorders have been implicated with increased mortality, and side effects such as dementia, cognitive impairment and falls. This week, the National Sleep Foundation urges everyone to celebrate sleep and its health benefits for National Sleep Awareness Week. We’ve put together an overview of why sleep is critical for senior health, how conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease can change sleep patterns, and what caregivers can do to make sure they get enough rest.
Sleep Deprivation and Insomnia Increase Dementia Risk
We all know a good night’s sleep is the key to feeling energetic and clear-headed the next day, but sleeping soundly is also linked to a lower risk of cognitive impairment later in life. Unfortunately, older adults are more likely to have health issues that disturb their sleep, such as insomnia or sleep apnea. A 2011 study at the University of California, San Francisco, showed a clear association between sleep-disordered breathing in older women and the risk of cognitive impairment.
“Those who developed disruptions of their circadian rhythm were also at increased risk,” reports NPR. “So were those who awoke throughout the night, tossing and turning.”
For seniors who are under some form of psychological stress, this link may be even stronger. Not only does stress affect our sleep patterns, stress in itself has been associated with dementia risk. A study in 2010 found a link between stress in middle-aged women and the later development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Kristine Yaffe, who co-authored the UCSF study, advises older adults to get regularly screened for sleep problems, so that any issues can be caught early and treated before they lead to significant cognitive impairment.
Reprinted from A Place for Mom.