Many senior-citizens live “in fear of” going to bed. This fear is caused by anxieties that disrupt sleep.
The simple fact of aging can set anxiety off. “As you get older, you get multiple awakenings throughout the night, which can lead to the anxiety insomnia spiral,” says Raj, Dagupta, M, D., and AASM fellow and spokesperson. Age related sleep issues can be caused by several things such as, menopause hormone shifts, prostate issues for men, chronic pain (more common in later years), certain medications (beta-blockers, antidepressants), apnea.
A person’s circadian rhythm shifts with age, especially past age 60. A senior may want to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, which can be in direct conflict with their lifestyle.
Caffeine can take up to 10 hours to completely clear the bloodstream in some seniors. The Cleveland Clinic studies show that caffeine can be found circulating 6-hous after consumption. Avoid caffeine up to 6 hours before going to bed, says Michael Breas, sleep specialist and psychologist based in Manhattan Beach, CA.
“Many of us like to turn to a glass of wine, or beer for its sedative effect, but those backfire too”, says Jennifer Mundt, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “While it may help you feel sleepy at first it will result in poor quality, disrupted sleep until the alcohol is metabolized.” According to the Sleep Foundation, two drinks for men and one drink for women can disrupt sleep.
There are do-it-yourself methods to deal with sleep anxiety;
- Get a guidebook on CBT-1, which is cognitive therapy for anxiety and insomnia. Two different but thorough books are available currently.
- Skip the sleeping pills. Sedatives (Benzodiazepines, Valium) and Z drugs (Ambien, Lunesta) are for short term use. When used over long periods, Benzodiazepines become addictive. Any sleeping pill, when used incorrectly, have been associated with frequent falls, confusion and other complications.
- Try simple stress busting techniques.
- Turn your clock face so you can’t see it
- Turn of TV, computer, cellphones, etc. 30 minutes before bedtime, reducing exposure to blue light
- Add weight; A study of 120 insomnia patients with major depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, found those who used a weighted blanket for 4-weeks report a major reduction in insomnia. The pressure from the weighted blanket may help lower heart rate and slow breathing. Weighted blankets can help reduce tossing and turning.
When the D-Y-I methods do not work, a sleep therapist is the next option. The therapist’s CBT-1 treatment is paid under Medicare and your supplemental insurance.