Sleepless in Serangoon: What Is Causing Insomnia Among Seniors?5 min read
Noticed that your parents/grandparents seem to be sleeping less than you? The reason may not be what you think it is.
Psst!!! You know hor, I heard that the auntie from the next block has been falling asleep in random places recently; at the hair salon, the kopitiam, and even mid-conversation with her friend! I kaypoh go ask around and found out she has been having problems sleeping at night.
I realised a lot of people our age also face this problem leh. So I went to research a bit and found that there’s a very simple reason for this: sleep problems that could be age-related. Apparently, the older you are, the more likely you are to get insomnia.
I know what you are going to say. You thought older adults need less sleep right? I did too, but that’s what we think only lah. According to Sleep Foundation, the belief that older people need less sleep might just be a myth. The truth is that they are sleeping less because they have problems falling or staying asleep in the first place. Actually ah, no matter what age you are at, most adults need between 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
So why do seniors have problems falling and staying asleep? Here are some reasons I found:
Common Causes of Sleep Problems
- Lack of physical activity: When older folks retire, it often results in a lack of social activities and a more sedentary lifestyle. This might cause them to be less tired at night.
- Poor sleep habits and environment: With more time on their hands, older folks also might cultivate poor habits such as irregular sleep hours, or excessive napping in the day. Environmental conditions such as the level of brightness, noise and temperature might also affect their ability to fall asleep.
- Sleep disorders: Seniors are more likely to have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea (temporary breathing lapses during sleep) and Restless Legs Syndrome (night-time leg pains). These conditions may result in lower quality of sleep and affect the body’s supply of oxygen. If you think you have these, better go consult with your doctor.
- Menopause: Unfortunately ladies going through menopause might experience unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, both of which can result in interrupted sleep. This may last throughout the menopausal transition and even post-menopause.
- Chronic pain or medical conditions: Health conditions can also prevent seniors from falling asleep or reduce the quality of sleep they get. This includes arthritis that can cause discomfort and pain, heart conditions that lead to breathlessness such as asthma and bronchitis, or prostate issues resulting in the frequent need to urinate.
- Medications: Certain medications commonly taken by seniors can have side effects that might reduce the quality of sleep. These can include medications for high blood pressure, heart failure and high cholesterol, diuretics and steroids.
- Stress or psychological disorders: Stressful or traumatic life events such as the sickness or death of friends, their spouse, and loved ones could possibly lead to insomnia as well. Other problems such as loneliness or underlying worries (such as worries about their health or financial situation) might also be what’s keeping seniors up at night.
No Sleep, No Good
According to the Sleep Disorders Unit at Singapore General Hospital, good sleep is super important for older folks as it helps their cells to recover faster and improves their immune system.
If seniors don’t get enough sleep, it could increase the risk of health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, anxiety and depression. Another study I saw also found that poor sleep increases the risk of dementia and premature death among seniors. Disrupted sleep routines at night also leads to one feeling lethargic and unable to concentrate in the day, which may also increase the likelihood of falls or accidents among seniors – alamak! We really need to sleep leh!
So I shared everything I found with Ka-soh over Whatsapp, and she suspects it’s her new medication that’s causing this so I told her to consult her doctor. Hopefully she can get a better night’s sleep after this.
Sleep well, live well
Ageing might lead to changes in sleeping patterns, but a good night’s rest is super important for health. If you are also experiencing such frequent insomnia, do remember to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or sleep disorders that might be keeping you awake hor!
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The family’s pillar of strength, affectionately called Umommy by the kids because she makes the best umami soups! Soft-spoken, generous and giving, she’s the official peacemaker of the family, helping to hold things together when times are bad.