Sleep Habits of the Older Adult Population: Illness or epidemic?


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Older adults were polled by The National Sleep Foundation in 2003 and found that the majority of older adults (67%) report frequent sleep problems. This means that 37 million adults in the US reported sleep problems but that only seven million have been diagnosed, leaving 30 million being even more sleep deprived. When this poll was conducted in 2005 (2 years later), 75% complained of insomnia. The percentage went up by 8% which is a significant rise in individuals suffering from insomnia.

The National Institute of Health estimated in 2005 that up to 70 million Americans have difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. The University of Michigan found a strong correlation between insomnia and suicide. In The Journal of Sleep Research in 2007, Campbell found that older adults slept two hours less then people 30 years or younger and almost a full hour less then people in their middle ages.

What is Insomnia? This refers to a subjective inability to fall or stay asleep, and chronic insomnia is due to circadian dysrhythmia, homeostatic dysregulation and hyperarousal. Insomnia results in increased risk of depression, overall, decreased productivity at work and in daytime activities. As people age, they are more apt to experience secondary insomnia due to medical conditions, and to experience sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome (RLS) and circadian rhythm disorder.

So what do these facts and figures mean? Whether the actual rate is 37 million or 70 million American, there’s no question that significant numbers of American are adversely affected and afflicted by Insomnia. This can result in driving accidents, a lack of productivity at work, result in exhaustion and be a contributing factor in depression. Older adults may also wake up due to a medical problem with concomitant pain, sleep apnea, obesity or simply needing to go to the bathroom at night.

What are some possible solutions?

Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks like coffee before bedtime.

Don’t exercise before bedtime.

Take a warm shower or a bath, perhaps up to an hour or less before bedtime.

Listen to relaxing music or read a book.

Find a way to relax.

But what can I do if these options fail me?

Many doctors will prescribe sleep aid medications but keep in mind three salient factors, namely:

Most medications are psychologically addictive. That is, you may not necessarily become physically addicted, but you may need the medication as a crutch to fall asleep.

Secondly, sleep aid medications have side effects which could include drowsiness and feelings of confusion. A friend reported that he was prescribed a very popular sleep aid, and in the middle of the night he proceeded to walk to the kitchen, pulled down his pajama pants, and proceeded to urinate on the floor. What was most scary about this incident is that he didn’t remember this incident and was later informed about it by his wife. What might have happened if he proceeded to start his car and drove it, possibly harming himself and others?

Third, when people are prescribed sleep aids for a long period of time, they graduate to other heavier dosages or a different sleep aid. That is, most people outgrow the dosage which necessitates a higher dosage or being prescribed another sleep aid.

Are there some other more natural ways of helping people attain improved sleep habits?

Hypnotherapy has been used to improve the sleep habits of older adults. Simply put, Hypnosis is nothing more then relaxation therapy with suggestions for a deep, a restful and uninterrupted sleep. In addition the Sterk’s teach people how to hypnotize themselves. This is called Self Hypnosis or Auto Hypnosis. It is painless and has been recognized by the American Medical Association since 1958. Why suffer? Why submit yourself to prescription medications when the sleep condition can be overcome very naturally, with the use of Hypnosis?

If you wish to be helped to overcome insomnia and sleep restlessness, you can call Dr. Sam Sterk, Ph.D. or Miriam Sterk, LCSW at 480-767-0956. Each inquiry is confidential, handled with the utmost of professionalism.

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