Giving Care: Senior & Disabled Caregiver Resource Blog

Sleep: When Seniors Get Too Much or Too Little

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There is no doubt a good night’s sleep is beneficial for the body — it’s how we restore our energy levels and reset our minds for the next day. When we don’t get enough truly restful sleep, our mood as well as our ability to mentally and physically function is compromised.

As our age changes, so do our sleep patterns and habits. Around mid-life, the length of sleep decreases by about 30 minutes per decade. However, seniors need the same amount of sleep as teenagers: around 7-9 hours per night. Older adults also sleep less deeply and awaken more often throughout the night. It is also common for them to sleep and wake up earlier than they did when they were younger.

Many seniors are sleep deprived in that they are not getting enough of the right kind of deep, uninterrupted sleep. Some may be getting too much sleep.

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What causes sleep problems in seniors?

  • Insomnia: Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Common in adults over the age of 60, it can last for days, months, and sometimes years. Anxiety and depression are the most common causes of insomnia, though physical illnesses can induce it as well.
  • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a disorder marked by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. Sufferers may make snorting, choking, gasping, or abnormally loud snoring noises. The brain therefore does not get enough oxygen, which can cause a multitude of other issues.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Alzeimer’s dementia may cause seniors to sleep too little or too much. They may be restless or wish to wander; or oversleeping due to changes in the brain.
  • Other health factors: Restless legs syndrome, respiratory diseases, immune disorders, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and other medical factors may also contribute to problems sleeping.

How can I help a senior improve their sleep?

  • Talk to a doctor: Bring your loved one to a doctor if you are concerned with his or her sleep habits. Perhaps the issue is diagnosable, and there is a medication that may improve their quality of sleep. You may also want to ask if the senior’s current medications, such as antidepressants and cardiovascular drugs, can disrupt sleep.
  • Establish a bedtime routine and schedule: Adhering to a strict schedule can help to regulate sleep; going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets the body clock right. Accustom your elderly loved one to winding down an hour or two before bedtime — no television or bright lights helps to relax the eyes, and a bath or meditation helps to relax the body. If possible, try to avoid naps during the day.
  • Regulate eating habits: Eating within two hours before bed may affect the ability to fall asleep. During the day, avoid stimulants like nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine.
  • Try exercise: Physical activity as approved by a doctor may ease issues with energy levels. You can also take them for a walk in the sunshine.

Keeping seniors comfortable during sleep

Increasing your aging loved one’s comfort during sleep is essential. There are many products that you can introduce to make bedtime easier.

  • The right mattress and pillows can address a senior’s individual physical needs; the level of support they offer will vary person-to-person
  • Soft and warm sheets are an important accessory, as seniors may experience lower body temperatures as a result of aging

Finding the Right Sleepwear for your Loved one

Sleepwear can be difficult as one ages. If your loved one is in a wheelchair, changing from their daily outfit to nightwear can be a pain. This is why open back adaptive nightgowns can be extremely beneficial to the nighttime routine. An open back night gown opens up completely at the back. This means no small neck holes, no more struggling with sleeves. Now you can simply slides the arms into the sleeves and then snap on either shoulder. Each shoulder has two snap dome closures on it. The dome closures are located on the top of the shoulders so that there are so pressure points on the back when sleeping. Adaptive Open Back Nightgowns are great to stay comfortable and to make the night time routine easy.

For a visual of how open back nightgowns work, here are some videos below to demonstrate:

Open Back Nightgowns come in a number of fabrics. For women there are three different fabrics, the polycotton blend, Knit and a flannel. For men there are two fabrics, the polycotton blend and the flannel.

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Let Silvert’s and the Giving Care team help you make the best clothing decisions for you and your elderly loved one. Call us at 1-800-387-7088 to speak with an experienced customer service representative.


  • […] Getting too much or too little sleep is unhealthy for everyone, but older adults tend to struggle with it more and more as they age. Sleep machines like Ecotones have a number of features that help improve the quality of sleep, including customizable white noise or nature sounds and sleep timers. Plus, it can detect external noises (like the neighbour’s dog barking) and automatically adjust to mask it. […]

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