Lilia Malkin, MSc
Sleep is a necessary physiologic break that gives the human body the opportunity to relax and revitalize itself. Unfortunately, getting "a good night's rest" frequently proves challenging, particularly for the elderly. As many as twenty-five percent of otherwise healthy older adults complain of chronic sleep difficulties.1,2 When seniors with medical and/or psychiatric co-morbidity are taken into consideration, the proportion of the elderly who suffer from chronic insomnia and excess daytime somnolence may actually exceed fifty percent.3 Since adequate sleep makes a substantial contribution to one's quality of life, it is important to determine the etiology of a sleep disorder, so that the primary sleep problem and/or the underlying condition may be treated appropriately. This article will discuss the physiologic changes in the sleep pattern of healthy older adults, common geriatric sleep disorders, as well as assessment and treatment strategies for insomnia in the elderly.
Sleep Changes in Healthy Elderly
Aging is associated with a multitude of physiologic alterations in healthy seniors, and sleep is no exception. Age-related sleep changes occur apart from primary sleep disorders, or medical and/or psychiatric conditions.
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