Most elderly people complain of frequent waking up at night, shortening sleep duration, daytime sleepiness, and the need to sleep after dinner. Why is this happening?
The fact is that as they grow older and older, the quality and architecture of sleep changes. The duration of deep sleep begins to decline from the age of 20. By old age, the efficiency of sleep decreases to about 80%. This means that of the total time spent in bed, it is possible to sleep only this part of it. As the total duration of the first and second phases of sleep increases, deep sleep (the third and fourth phases) is reduced, sleep becomes more sensitive – therefore, older people are more susceptible to what is happening around them. They often wake up from the slightest sound. It also occurs as a result of an increase in the activity of the autonomic (autonomous) nervous system (pulse rate, blood pressure and emotional stress increase).
As they grow older, the biological clock shifts towards acceleration. The advanced phase of sleep and a condition in which an elderly person becomes sleepy already in the early evening develops, goes to bed and wakes up after 7-8 hours of sleep. By 3–4 in the morning, an active life “for the joy” of the family begins, or the painful hours of waiting until everyone wakes up.
Other changes in circadian rhythms lead to intermittent sleep and the need to nap during the day. In addition, it is difficult for older people to adjust to the time difference when moving to a different time zone.
Changes in circadian rhythms in older people occur for a number of reasons. According to one theory, they are caused by the aging process itself and are the norm. According to another, the changes are caused by a deterioration of health, for example, a decrease in visual acuity due to senile cataracts. Light, which is the most powerful means of influencing circadian rhythms, has less effect on the eyes. Plays a role and the fact of preferential stay in the house, rather than on the street. Thus, reducing the time of the influence of bright light has a negative effect on sleep. Studies aimed at studying the ability of light to improve sleep and daytime activity in the elderly have shown that walking in the fresh air in the morning and afternoon is a good non-drug remedy for insomnia and early awakenings at 3-4 o’clock in the morning.
So, a number of sleep changes in older people are related to the normal aging process, but there are many that are considered pathological. Scientific results show that in most cases, insomnia in the elderly is the result of diseases characteristic of this age group. Among them: hypertension with increased blood pressure, diseases of the stomach, peptic ulcer, obstruction of the respiratory tract with problems with the lungs. Often found chronic cerebrovascular insufficiency with impaired function of the respiratory center leads to sleep apnea. Insomnia is provided for those who suffer from frequent urination at night (nocturia), pain in the joints and the spine, as well as those who use medications that affect the structure of sleep.
Disturbed breathing during sleep and periodic limb movements are widespread among the elderly. Many signs of the aging process, such as snoring, daytime sleepiness, hypertension, angina and lung pathology, lead to sleep apnea and insomnia. These disorders are treatable, and therefore in the case of such symptoms should seek the advice of a doctor.