As one ages, insomnia and difficulty sleeping can become a real problem. A restless night may seem close to unbearable for someone who may be struggling with physical challenges. But more than that, someone who is suffering from lack of sleep can also experience increased anxiety, depression, and irritability. A good night’s sleep is essential for everyone of every age. When rest escapes them ,I it safe for your elderly relative or loved one to take sleeping pills?

Of course, no one should take any form of sleep aid without the advice of a medical professional. This is especially true of senior citizens. Assuming that you will consult their physician, what else do caregivers and family need to know about the safety of sleeping pills as a remedy?

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Information Regarding Sleeping Pills and Medications

Recent studies report that sleep-inducing medications of all kinds may be unhealthy  for anyone to take on a regular basis. Painful or even dangerous side effects show up over the long term, but the ramifications are even more serious for the elderly.

Minor side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, or dizzy spells. While none of that sounds fun, it does not sound especially dangerous, either. However, a dizzy spell or loss of balance can be catastrophic for an already unsteady or infirm patient.

More importantly, if someone becomes dependent on these medications to get a good nights sleep, the usage over longer periods of time can result in much more serious consequences. Symptoms of long-term ingestion of sleeping pills are thought to include decreased memory function, a harder time learning, a loss of alertness, and an increase in confusion.  If those symptoms sound familiar, they should. Doctors warn that a long-term use of these medications greatly increases the possibility of the onset of dementia. The elderly, if not already dealing with these symptoms, should avoid anything that can cause them to experience earlier or worsened dementia.

Safe Alternatives to Sleeping Pills

Although sleeping pills may appear to be a great “quick fix”, the risks are often too great for the elderly (except in extreme circumstances and under a doctor’s care.) If your loved one is battling insomnia, try these safer methods to combat the problem.

  • Set up the right environment: Keep the bedroom dark, comfortable and free from distractions. Keep the temperature at a comfortable level for them, and run an overhead fan so that the air does not stagnate. Keep in mind that the fan will cool the air as well. Don’t make it too cold. If need be, invest in a good mattress.
  • Limit Frustration: If your loved one cannot fall asleep, advise them not to “chase sleep”. Lying there waiting for sleep to come can be frustrating and cause anxiety. Encourage them to get up and move about until tired, listen to music, or set them up with an audio book to keep their mind busy and allow them to drift off.
  • Home Remedies Really Work: Warm milk is the old standby, but it does seem to help the body to calm down and signals that it is time to rest. If possible, a warm bath with lavender soap can soothe and calm the body and mind – if your loved one lives in an assisted living facility, inquire about arranging for an aide to come assist nightly if necessary. Whatever you choose, make it a nightly ritual so the body recognizes the pattern.
  • Stay Active: Find age and ability-appropriate ways for your senior citizen to tire out during the day. Whether taking walks, doing light exercise classes, or simply making sure they go to meals and visit with others during the day – movement and activity will naturally cause sleepiness at night. Fresh air and sunshine will especially help. Make sure they settle down after dinner though – too much exercise too close to bedtime can have an opposite effect.
  • Avoid Napping During the Day: While the body may need to adjust if used to a nap, staying up during the day will help to encourage deeper sleep at night. If your loved one is sleeping out of boredom, talk to their caregiver or aide about ways which you can keep them active and engaged throughout the day – which of course, will also help in the evening.
  • Avoid Foods Likely to Disrupt Sleep: Caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, large meals and spicy food can keep someone awake, especially if ingested late in the day. Avoid frequent overnight bathroom trips by limiting drinks of any kind from dinner until bedtime.

If nothing is working and your loved one is seriously losing sleep, consult their physician. At A Banyan Residence, we will do whatever is necessary to help our residents to live a full and happy life. If your loved one is looking for a caring, compassionate and skilled adult residence staff, we invite you to visit us today.