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Seniors Who Can't Sleep May Face Early Nursing Home

Seniors Who Can't Sleep May Face Early Nursing Home

Fragmented sleep linked to a number of aging-related diseases

July 25th, 2012 by Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs in News

Seniors who have trouble getting a good night's sleep may be headed for a nursing home sooner than their sounder-sleeping peers.

That's the conclusion of a new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They say fragmented or interrupted sleep could predict future placement in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

"Sleep disturbances are common in older people," said Adam Spira, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health. "Our results show that in community-dwelling older women, more fragmented sleep is associated with a greater risk of being placed in a nursing home or in a personal care home."

Compared with women with the least fragmented sleep patterns, those who spent the most time awake after first falling asleep were three times more likely to end up in a nursing home or assisted living facility. The linkage may have something to do with disease.

Linked to diseases

In previous research the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found not getting enough sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions -- such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.

Research has established that lack of sleep is responsible for an increased risk of motor vehicle and other accidents. Previous studies have also linked disturbed sleep with disability in older adults and impairment in activities of daily living and mobility.

The latest study found that senior adults who suffer from insomnia are at risk of requiring institutional care within five years.

More research needed

"It's important to remember that this is an observational study, so our findings cannot demonstrate a conclusive causal link between sleep disturbance and placement in long-term care facilities," Spira said. "We need more research to explain how sleep disturbance might lead to this outcome, and whether interventions to improve sleep might prevent it.

Here are some tips for increasing your chances of a full night's rest:

Get on a regular schedule: Varying your bedtime radically will disrupt your sleep pattern

Don't eat or drink a lot just before bedtime: When you go to sleep your stomach should not be full but it shouldn't be empty either.

Avoid alcohol and tobacco: Using tobacco is never a good idea, but especially in the evening. Having a drink just before bedtime is also to be avoided.

Keep the room dark: Exposure to light may disrupt your sleep.

Consider a white noise generator: Many people find this sound restful, plus it helps disguise other sounds that may be in the house.

If sleep disruption consists, discuss it with your doctor.