Caring for Elderly Parents: 3 Surprising Reasons They Don’t Sleep Well at Night

elderly couple jogging

It’s normal for everyone in all age groups to experience poor sleep from time to time. Knowing the difference between what’s normal and what’s potentially alarming, however, can make a lot of difference, especially for your elderly parents.

The older a person becomes, the lower the levels of growth hormones they produce. This leads to a decrease in deep sleep, which then prompts fragmented sleep patterns. You might’ve heard your mother or father remark that they’ve become “light sleepers.” That’s absolutely normal. An increased desire to sleep and wake up earlier and nap at daytime are also changes that shouldn’t raise any concern.

What should prompt a little probing is any comment about difficulty sleeping for consecutive days or weeks. If a checkup proves that there’s no serious physiological ailment behind it, then the cause might be something less conspicuous.

Here are three reasons that people often overlook.

Off-Season Allergies

It’s not that time of year yet, but your parents have been sneezing like crazy when you last visited them in Massachusetts. They said they replace the bed sheets and clean the entire house regularly, so it must be the weather that’s triggering their allergies.

Maybe, or maybe not.

Sometimes, the everyday cleaning most people do isn’t enough to get rid of the dust mites and allergens that linger in crannies you do not suspect.

A visit from an exterminator might do the trick. It takes a professional to spot areas where these pests have formed nests and get rid of them for good. An exterminator will also spare your parents from dealing with other, more serious illnesses that come with these troublesome insects.

A Sedentary Lifestyle

The 2017 Consumer Sleep survey showed that people who experienced poor sleep quality didn’t work out. Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep’s medical director at Howard County General Hospital Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., claims that there is solid evidence proving the relationship between exercise and sleep quality.

Encouraging your parents to take up certain exercises like yoga, walking, or swimming can remedy their sleep problems. More than dozing off quicker and longer, exercise can also improve their mood and prevent certain health conditions. If you live near them, why not take up an active hobby together? Sometimes, good company is all the motivation they need to pick up their dusty running shoes from under the bed.

A Lack of Socializing

A Michigan University research team reported that more socially engaged individuals experienced lower cognitive impairment levels and better memory performance. These benefits make it easier to do things they enjoy, like gardening, shopping, and babysitting their grandchildren. With more things to preoccupy them during the day, their minds and bodies will be ready for a good sleep at night.

It will also lessen social media use before bedtime, which is a hobby that can increase brain activity and therefore impede sleep. Find volunteer opportunities for causes that they’re passionate about, or sign them up for classes. Older adults need to become part of a community or a group of people apart from their immediate family. That will help them adjust to their age better and find new things they can take an interest in.

Sleep Is Essential

Lack of proper sleep, especially for prolonged periods, can lead to serious health issues. Whenever you hear your parents complain about this issue, reach out and help them find a solution. Aging isn’t something everybody takes in stride, so it’s important to have a helping hand to guide them through it.

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