Understanding the Hidden Risks of Sleeping Pills for Seniors

senior man in bed looking at clock
Get better rest with this info about sleeping pills and senior from the St. Joseph home health care experts.

What could possibly be better than waking up well rested after an excellent night’s sleep, completely energized and able to face the day? For a lot of older adults – as much as a third of them – obtaining sufficient sleep only occurs in their dreams. And sadly, it’s a common assumption that inadequate sleep is just something to be accepted in our later years – a misconception that Preeti Malani, M.D., chief health officer and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan would like to dispel.

Per Dr. Malani, “If older adults believe that these changes are a normal, inevitable part of aging, they may not think of it as something to discuss with their doctor. And not discussing it can potentially lead to health issues not being identified and managed.”

Instead of merely tossing and turning, just about 40% of seniors with sleep problems are depending on sleeping medications – something which is increasingly risky once we grow older. Sleeping pills and medications double the risk of falls and bone injuries in seniors, due to the increased dizziness and disorientation they could cause. Seniors will also be prone to becoming dependent upon these types of medications. And, the risk for car accidents can also be increased, based on Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign.

Plus the concern about sleeping medications extends to herbal solutions and supplements as well, which place older adults at an increased risk for a number of additional negative effects. Even something as apparently innocuous as melatonin can interact with other common prescriptions, such as those for diabetes and high blood pressure, and also cause dizziness and nausea.

The first step in addressing sleep concerns for seniors is to talk with the doctor to rule out any underlying conditions (such as depression, anxiety, restless legs syndrome, and even cardiovascular disease, to name a few) and also to receive his or her recommendations on how exactly to safely improve sleep. Several safer alternatives include:

  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening
  • Keep all electronic devices out of the bedroom, and keep the sleeping environment dark and cool
  • Set a sleeping pattern and stay with it, sleeping and waking up at the same time every day
  • Engage the services of a sleep therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy

Home Sweet Home’s St. Joseph home health care team can help in a variety of ways as well. Our fully trained and experienced in-home caregivers can help seniors stay active through the day with exercise programs, fun outings, and much more, setting the stage for a far better night’s sleep. Call us at (269) 849-9252 to find out more.

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