WESTON, Fla. – The number of older adults in the United States is expected to grow significantly over the next several decades, which in turn means more people will be suffering from sleep disorders.
”There is definitely a shift in REM and short wake sleep as we age,” said Dr. Samuel Gurevich, a pulmonologist with Cleveland Clinic Weston.
The question? Why does age seem to rob our bodies of much needed rest?
”Part of it is because there’s a high prevalence of other medical conditions that can interfere with sleep. Arthritis, heart disease, lung disease, even prostate issues. So anything that can cause discomfort to the body will cause you to potentially wake up throughout the night, so it will decrease the quality of our sleep,” Gurevich said.
And some of the conditions he mentioned may not be outwardly obvious which means that poor sleep could actually be the first warning sign of an underlying condition.
”It’s also important to know that there are sleep disorders that become worse or more prevalent in people as they get old and that includes things like sleep apnea for example,” Gurevich said.
In the search for some solid shut-eye many turn to over the counter or prescription sleep aids which he said may offer temporary relief but come with risk.
”People do develop tolerance to them which means the long they take them, but the higher dose they need to take to get the same effect and as you increase the dose, those side effects go up as well,” Gurevich said.
He reminds his patients that it’s important not to compare the way they slept in their 30s to the way they may be sleeping in their 60s and he also cautions against buying into marketing measures for beds, pillows and blankets that are pitched to older Americans.
”There is no proof that there is anything specifically special for someone of a certain age when it comes to this. You need to just find something you’re comfortable with,” Gurevich said.