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The Hidden Risks of Common Sleep Medications for Seniors

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For more advice on common sleep medications for seniors, call on CareFor.

Is there anything that feels better than waking up well rested after a good night’s sleep, feeling energized and ready to face the day? For some older adults – as many as one-third of them – getting sufficient sleep is something that only occurs in their dreams. And unfortunately, it’s a common assumption that lack of sleep is something we simply need to accept in our later years – a misconception that Preeti Malani, M.D., chief health officer and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan wants to dispel. According to 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 tossing and turning every night, as many as 40% of elderly people with sleep issues are turning to common sleep medications for seniors – a practice that can be dangerous as we get older. Sleep medications for older adults can double the risk of falls and bone injuries, due to the increased dizziness and disorientation they may cause. Seniors are often also at risk of becoming dependent on these types of meds. And, the risk for motor vehicle accidents can increase as well, according to Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign.

Not only that, but the concern includes herbal remedies and supplements as well, which place seniors at risk for a variety of additional negative effects. Even something as seemingly innocuous as melatonin could react negatively with other common drugs, such as those for diabetes and high blood pressure, causing dizziness and nausea.

A good first step for a senior having sleep problems is to talk with his or her doctor to rule out any underlying conditions (such as depression, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, and heart disease, to name just a few) and to get the doctor’s recommendation on how to safely improve sleep. A few safer alternatives include:

  • Reduce the amount of caffeine and alcohol consumed, especially later in the day and evening
  • Keep all electronic devices out of the bedroom, and ensure the sleeping environment is cool and dark
  • Set up a sleeping routine and stick to it, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
  • Check into the services of a professional sleep therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy

As the leading provider of senior home care in New Braunfels, TX and the surrounding areas, CareFor can help older adults maintain better sleeping habits with a variety of home care services: helping to ensure that seniors stay active and engaged during the daytime, preparing healthy, nutritious meals, offering transportation to fun outings, and much more. Call us at (512) 338-4533 to learn more. For more details on all of the areas we serve in Texas, please visit our Service Area page.

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