It’s common for elderly people to sleep during the day and some also sleep for long periods at night. These things are usually nothing to worry about and can be explained relatively easily.
Sometimes, however, it can hint at a more serious issue and, therefore, should be investigated.
Causes of Excessive Sleeping in the Elderly
If you or a loved one is suffering from excessive sleepiness, it may be the result of one of the following issues:
The most common cause of daytime sleepiness is sleep deprivation. Simply put, when a person doesn’t get enough sleep during the night, they feel drained and exhausted the next day and may nap several times.
There are many reasons why seniors may struggle to get their recommended 7 to 8 hours every night, including:
- Prostate Problems: Waking up every few hours to use the toilet can be a chore. You interrupt your sleep cycles, tire yourself out, and when the morning finally breaks and you wake for the fourth time, you decide to call it quits and start your day.
- Sleep Apnea: A common problem in overweight individuals. With sleep apnea, the breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night. This deprives the brain and the body of oxygen and may cause the sufferer to wake multiple times. It can also be distressing for their partner, as they may hear the moment when their loved one’s breathing stops and then starts again.
- Snoring: When someone snores loudly, everyone in the house knows about it. More often than not, the person snoring is the only one who gets any sleep!
- Restless Legs Syndrome: RLS is characterized by an uncomfortable feeling of wanting to move your legs, even though you’re lying down and don’t necessarily have the energy to facilitate such movements. It makes life very difficult for the sufferer and often strikes when they are relaxed.
- Alcohol: While alcohol helps you fall asleep faster, it is often at the expense of periodic waking. You won’t get any restful sleep and may feel exhausted the next day.
Depression affects all ages and is becoming more common in the elderly. It can negatively impact a sufferer’s mental and physical health, and they may want to spend all their time sleeping.
Dementia causes numerous sleep disorders, including interrupted sleep, excessive sleepiness, agitation, night-time fidgeting, and more. These symptoms will likely worsen as the disease progresses.
Numerous medications cause fatigue and excessive sleepiness. Opioids, for instance, often sedate the user. If taken in the evening and in sufficient doses, these drugs may make it easier for them to fall asleep and to stay asleep longer than they usually would.
Sleeping tablets have the same effect. Not only will the user feel tired after taking these tablets, but they may still feel groggy the next day, even after getting a full night’s sleep.
Antihistamines, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and numerous other drugs have a similar effect.
How to Adopt a Normal Sleeping Pattern
If you’re worried about excessive sleeping, speak with your doctor. They will perform the necessary tests and checks to diagnose the problem and prescribe a suitable treatment. This may involve new medications, changing doses of existing medications, or advising lifestyle changes.
If the problem is related to one of the issues outlined above and you’re confident there is not a serious underlying cause, simply make some simple lifestyle changes and start adopting healthier sleeping habits:
- Create a Schedule: Your body works better when it has a schedule to stick to. Eat, sleep, and use the toilet at the same time every day and you’ll find that these things come easily to you. Where sleep is concerned, your body releases a natural sleep hormone every night around the same time. Once this has had time to work its magic, you’ll feel tired and will be ready for sleep. Sleep at the same time every night and that hormone will begin to flood your body at that time, allowing you to sleep through the night and making you less tired the next day.
- Eat Clean: Food has a massive impact on your mental and physical health and could be impacting your sleep schedule. A diet rich in fast food and processed food may be depriving you of essential nutrients, leaving you sluggish and lethargic all day.
- Avoid Excessive Caffeine: Caffeine will keep you awake when you need it, but if you consume it to excess, your tolerance will increase and your body will crave it. As soon as you begin to deprive yourself, you’ll feel tired and lethargic. In addition, if you drink a lot of caffeine at night, it may keep you awake throughout the night and leave you tired the next day. Try limiting your caffeine intake to the morning and early afternoon and avoid drinking it during the evening.
- Don’t Drink Before Bedtime: If you’re waking several times during the night to use the toilet, avoid drinking too much close to bedtime. Dehydration is a major issue in seniors, however, so you need to make an effort to get enough fluids throughout the day.
- Take a Bath: A soothing bath helps relax you and gives you an excuse to switch off from the world—no phone, no TV, no distractions. More importantly, it increases your body temperature while you’re in the bath so that it can be immediately reduced afterwards, making you tired and ready for sleep.