Insomnia is a serious problem for many elderly individuals; a 1991 National Sleep Foundation study found that 20% of participants age 65 and older suffered from chronic insomnia.
There are many options that aging parents and other loved ones may pursue in order to get a better night’s sleep. One of the most common is the use of some form of sleeping medication. There are many different sleep aids available, and often they provide exactly the kind of rest that weary, exhausted seniors need.
However, seniors and caregivers alike need to be cautious about using sleeping pills. A recent article in the New York Times, commenting on a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), advises people to be wary when using sedative-hypnotic medications, including many commonly prescribed sleeping aids.
The CDC report found that a large number of people who use these drugs often end up in the emergency room, typically because caregivers find it difficult to wake them or because they have suffered falls that seem to have some relation to the drowsiness caused by these medications. About one-third of the senior patients who require these emergency room visits end up being admitted to the hospital.
This is not to say that sleeping prescriptions should not be used; in some cases, they are the best option. However, if they are being used, patients and caregivers alike need to take steps to avoid falls and other possible consequences.
Patients may also want to consult with their physicians to determine whether there are alternatives, such as lifestyle changes, that might also allow them to sleep more easily.
Getting enough sleep is vitally important for aging parents (and for caregivers, too). Finding the right method that works in the best way for any individual can take a little time.
- More on Sleeping Pills and Older Adults (newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Sleeping pills for insomnia: Which ones work best? (consumerreports.org)
- How to deal with insomnia to get a good night’s sleep (usatoday.com)