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Four Sleep Problems Older Adults Face

Jan 07 2020

By Anita Ginsburg

Getting older brings a number of medical and biological adjustments for many older adults, including the need to deal with sleep issues. Older adults often struggle with getting to sleep or enjoying uninterrupted rest for several reasons. Here are a few of the most common problems and ways of addressing them. 


As we get older, it is fairly common to begin taking prescription drugs for blood pressure abnormalities, heart arrhythmias and chronic illnesses, like diabetes, high cholesterol or cancer. The medication you take may cause sleep disturbances that lead to reduced sleep or a poorer quality of sleep. If this happens, let your doctor know so that possible changes in medication type or dosage can be made along with considering other treatment options if possible.


A busy post-retirement social schedule, medication or sometimes boredom might cause some people to take frequent naps. A short nap of thirty minutes or so can be refreshing, but a longer one could interfere with night-time sleep. Aim for shorter naps to alleviate daytime drowsiness or fatigue, but reserve longer sleep periods for regular nightly rest. It may be helpful to nap in a favorite family room chair to keep naps shorter during the day while preserving the bedroom for prolonged sleeping at night.

Frequent Urination

Due to age, body changes or medication, some people may have to urinate more often, including getting up at night. This can disrupt a person’s quality of sleep and contribute to a feeling of being tired during the day. Drinking less at bedtime, urinating before sleeping and watching sodium intake with foods and beverages may help to reduce the frequency of bathroom visits during the night.

Change in Schedule

When people retire from full-time employment, their bodies may need some time to get used to a new lifestyle. Their sleep schedules can change to include naps or accommodate a spouse’s work schedule so that they experience less regular sleep. Disrupted sleep patterns may lead to more shallow sleep cycles, which can be worsened by frequent waking and sleeping patterns.

Various sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can disrupt your sleep without you realizing. You’ll likely find yourself drowsy or tiring more quickly, which can cause you to require more naps or extra sleep at night. As sleep apnea is very common in older adults, it may be helpful to consult sleep apnea doctors to determine if sleep apnea is a contributing factor. If so, it can usually be effectively addressed to let you enjoy more restful sleep without frequent waking.

Getting older does not have to lead to disrupted sleep patterns. Address issues like these with a doctor to get regular, relaxing sleep at night.