For those of us who are dealing with trouble sleeping, some small comfort can be found in the fact that you’re not going through it alone. Between 50 and 70 million adults in the United States are suffering from some kind of sleep disorder, according to the American Sleep Association. And while many people adhere to the myth that older adults need less sleep than younger adults, this is in fact untrue. All adults, no matter what stage of life, need to log about seven to nine hours of sleep each night, although seniors tend to sleep more lightly and in shorter bouts throughout the night and day.
Sleep disorders can become serious problems if left untreated, something even more true for older adults. The consequences of sleep deprivation include impaired cognition, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, and a reliance on aids and substances for sleep, as well as increased risk of falls, impaired immune systems, and difficulty with daily activities.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, and ten percent of the population meets the criteria for chronic impairment, with the prevalence increasing with age. Insomnia is defined as dissatisfaction with sleep quality or quantity, associated with any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty initiating sleep
- Difficulty maintaining sleep, such as frequent waking or problems returning to sleep after waking
- Early morning wakings with inability to return to sleep
When insomnia happens often, it becomes a problem when it disrupts some part of your life, and there isn’t a better explanation due to some other problem.