4 Safer Alternatives to Sleep Medication for Seniors

older man looking at bedside clock

Sleep medication for seniors can, in some cases, be dangerous.

What could be better than waking up well rested after a full night’s sleep, feeling energized and ready to face the day? For some seniors – as many as one in three – getting sufficient sleep is something that only happens in their dreams. And sadly, it’s a common assumption that lack of sleep is something we just need to accept in our later years – a misconception that Preeti Malani, M.D., chief health officer and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan wants to dispel. According to 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 tossing and turning each night, as many as 40% of older adults with sleep issues are relying on sleeping medications – a habit that can be dangerous when we get older. Sleep medications for seniors can double the risk of falls and bone injuries in seniors, due to the increased dizziness and disorientation they can cause. Older adults are often also susceptible to becoming dependent on these types of medications. And, the risk for car accidents can be increased as well, according to Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign.

In addition, the concern over sleep medications for seniors extends to herbal remedies and supplements as well, which place older adults at risk for a variety of additional negative effects. Even something as seemingly innocuous as melatonin can react negatively with other common medications, such as those for diabetes and high blood pressure, and cause dizziness and nausea.

The first step in managing sleep problems for older adults is to talk with a doctor to rule out any underlying conditions (like depression, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, and heart disease, to name just a few) and to receive his/her guidance on how to safely improve sleep. Several safer alternatives include:

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol, particularly later in the day and evening
  • Keep all electronic devices away from the bedroom, and make sure the sleeping environment is dark and cool
  • Set a sleeping routine and stick to it, going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day
  • Look into the services of a professional sleep therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy

As the top provider of senior care in Novato and the surrounding area, the aging care experts at Hired Hands Homecare can help older adults maintain better sleeping habits with a variety of home care services: ensuring seniors stay active and engaged during the daytime, preparing healthy, nutritious meals, offering transportation to enjoyable outings, and much more. Contact us online or call us at (866) 940-4343 to learn more

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