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Aging and Sleep Disturbances

As we begin to age our bodies react to the changing conditions and often sleep disturbances can begin to occur. The effects of aging can have an impact on the sleep cycles of the elderly. Sleep disturbances, common amongst seniors, bring about less meaningful REM sleep and shorter sleep periods in general. This puts them at risk of developing serious health conditions and increases the risk of injuries.

While the elderly need about 7-9 hours of sleep a night, many of them do not manage to sleep undisturbed for this long. About 50% of elders’ experience sleep insomnia and about 30% suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness. Both insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness can bring about muscle strength loss, impaired mobility and balance, slower gait speed and awareness, often leading to accidents that could injure a senior. Other conditions, such as increased inflammation or insulin resistance, can also develop from these sleep disturbances.

A recent study conducted by the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology examined the association between elderly speed, movements, frailty, and excessive daytime sleepiness. The study found that in subjects older than 75 years of age those with excessive daytime sleepiness had a much slower walking speed and demonstrated greater variability in strides. In addition, the study also found that those with excessive daytime sleepiness woke more frequently during the night, woke up too early, or felt unrested in the morning, compared to those without EDS.

Due to the serious risks that are associated with insomnia and EDS it is important to be able to recognize these sleep disturbances among seniors and prevent or treat them. When diagnosed, sleep disturbances can be prevented with sounder sleep environments, less naps, a better diet, or other activities that may aid a regular sleep schedule. It is especially important for caregivers to be aware of insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness signs in the elderly. EDS has been correlated to an increase in fall risk among seniors and a decrease in speed and awareness, increasing the chances for an elderly person to receive an unforeseen injury. Sleep disturbances that result in shorter sleep periods also contribute to muscle strength loss, increased inflammation, and insulin resistance that can cause larger health problems in the elderly population. Due to the increase of risks, recognition by these caretakers can help in preventing any injury or harm that may come to their patients.

If you suspect that you or a loved one have been a victim of elder abuse or neglect at an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, such as neglect that resulted in an injury, please contact the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi. Ben Yeroushalmi and the associate attorneys here at our law offices are highly dedicated to defending the rights of seniors. This passionate team specializes in elder abuse and neglect cases and we will work with you to find the justice that is deserved. If you believe that you or a loved one have been unfairly neglected or abused in a facility, such as one in Inglewood or Hawthorne, California, contact our office today for a free consultation.