The National Sleep Foundation reported that at least 24% of people aged 65-85 have been diagnosed with Multiple Chronic Diseases; 80% of them also report having sleep problems. Sleep deprivation symptoms can be similar too other signs of aging or diseases and so realizing that a sleep disorder is behind the problems is sometimes difficult.
Sleep deprivation can effect mood and performance, a person with sleep deprivation is as compromised as someone who is intoxicated. In addition to being tired and in a bad mood, the consequences can be fatal and can include:
- falls and accidents
- cognitive impairment, moodiness, depression, poor judgment, distortion of memory, poor reflexes
- cardiovascular, pulmonary and central nervous system effects
- disruption of insulin production and sugar metabolism leading to obesity
- weakened immune system
- heightened sensitivity to pain, impaired reaction to stress
It is a long held myth that the elderly need less sleep than the young. The truth is the elderly GET less sleep or at least have greater incidence of interrupted sleep than the young. This can be caused by conditions including sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, medications, anxiety, unrecognized change in sleep patterns (as we age we need to go to bed earlier and awaken earlier), daytime napping. Many diseases of aging can also affect sleep patterns including, Parkinson’s, MS and Alzheimer’s Disease.
If you or a loved one is experiencing interrupted sleep or difficulty getting to sleep, ask your doctor for a full sleep work up.