The High Risk of Sleep Medications for Elderly People and What to Use Instead

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Sleeping medications double the danger of falls and fractures in the elderly, due to the increased dizziness and disorientation they can cause.

Could there be anything better than getting up well rested after an excellent night’s sleep, fully energized and ready to face your day? For many older adults – as many as one third of them – obtaining sufficient sleep only occurs within their dreams. And unfortunately, it is a common assumption that inadequate sleep is actually something to be accepted in our later years – a misconception that Preeti Malani, M.D., chief health officer and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan would like to dispel.

As stated by 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.”

Rather than simply tossing and turning, almost 40% of older adults with sleep disorders are counting on sleeping medications – something which is frequently risky as we grow older. Sleeping medications double the danger of falls and fractures in the elderly, due to the increased dizziness and disorientation they can cause. The elderly are also vulnerable to becoming reliant upon these kinds of medications. And, the chance for automobile accidents is also increased, according to Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign.

Additionally the concern about sleeping medications includes herbal remedies and supplements as well, which place older adults at risk for many additional negative effects. Even something as seemingly innocuous as melatonin can interact with other common prescriptions, such as those for diabetes and raised blood pressure, and also cause dizziness and nausea.

The initial step in addressing sleep concerns for seniors is to talk to the doctor to rule out any underlying conditions (such as depression, anxiety, restless legs syndrome, and even cardiovascular disease, to name a few) and to receive his or her recommendations on how to safely improve sleep. Some safer alternatives include:

  • Restrict alcohol and caffeine, particularly in the afternoon and evening
  • Keep all electronic devices out of the bedroom, and keep the sleeping environment dark and cool
  • Set a sleeping pattern and adhere to it, going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day
  • Engage the services of a skilled sleep therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy

JFS Care can help in many ways as well. Our fully trained and experienced in-home caregivers can help your senior loved one stay active throughout the day with exercise programs, fun outings, and much more through our senior care services, setting the stage for a far better night’s sleep. Contact us online or call us at (213) 383-2273 to learn more about how we provide a quality caregiver for elderly in Los Angeles and surrounding areas with our personalized care plans.  

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