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Treatment for sleep issues in later life

Posted on Thursday, 12 January 2012, in Treatments & Therapy

Suffering from problems with sleeping in later life can be debilitating and cause anxiety, depression along with a range of other physical problems.  At Clinical Partners our Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists will be able to under cover the issues behind your problem and help you.


Symptoms of common late-life sleep disorders

It seems doubly unfair that, along with all the health and psychological issues that can trouble the elderly while they’re awake, sleep disorders become more common as well.

The reason is that sleep is usually a barometer of one’s overall health. And it’s a circular process: the poorer your sleep, the worse your energy levels and overall mood. Fortunately, late-late sleep disorders can usually be cured without the need for sleeping pills.


Insomnia – the most common sleep disorder

  • Do you have difficulty falling asleep or getting back to sleep after waking at night?
  • Do you keep waking up, then feel unrefreshed in the morning?
  • Do you need pills or a nightcap to get to sleep?

Long-term insomnia can be debilitating, but can be successfully cured by treating the cause, usually one or more of the following:

  • Psychological factors such as anxiety or depression
  • Health factors, including lack of exercise
  • Lifestyle factors such as medications, diet, coffee and alcohol, and a reliance on sleeping pills

Among the elderly, the pain of a recent bereavement will normally cause some insomnia. If the problem is serious, short term use of sleeping pills may be advised – but counselling may be more helpful if the problem continues.


Sleep apnoea – a potentially dangerous sleep disorder

Sleep apnoea is when your breathing stops temporarily while you’re sleeping, waking you up frequently and leaving you exhausted each morning. It’s a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder – yet many sufferers have no idea that they have it.

If you suspect you, your partner or a loved one has sleep apnoea, it can be treated, so seek medical help right away.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnoea?

  • Loud, chronic snoring, with moments of gasping or choking
  • Frequent pauses in breathing while sleeping
  • Waking up feeling short of breath and with headaches, chest pains, a dry throat or nasal congestion

If you think you may need treatment, call us to arrange a private consultation. 0203 326 9160


Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome is when you experience uncomfortable tingling or aching sensations deep in your legs (or arms), usually when you’re resting – giving you an irresistible urge to move them.

This can also happen with your arms. While asleep, RLS may result in cramping or jerking of the limbs. Moving, stretching or massaging the limbs usually eases the sensations temporarily.

Narcolepsy – daytime ‘sleep attacks’

Do you have sudden ‘sleep attacks’ while in the middle of doing something else during the day? Narcolepsy can be very annoying if it keeps happening while you’re talking or working, and can be extremely dangerous if you’re driving.

Some symptoms of narcolepsy include:

  • Finding yourself dreaming while not fully asleep
  • Feeling weak when you’re laughing, angry or excited
  • Feeling unable to move when waking up or dozing off


Delayed sleep phase disorder

Delayed sleep phase disorder is when your body clock gets shifted by a number of hours – with the result that you only start to feel sleepy in the early hours of the morning. This can usually be treated with light therapy and ‘chronotherapy’.


Some sleep disorder tips

  • Try sticking to a regular bedtime routine each day
  • A dark, cool and quiet bedroom is important – an eye mask could help
  • Try not to watch your TV or computer late at night – its lightwaves can suppress melatonin levels, giving you a kind of ‘jet lag’


Keeping a sleep diary

A sleep diary is a useful self-help strategy. On a daily basis, note when you went to bed, when you woke up, your perceived hours and quality of sleep, your daily food, caffeine, alcohol and medication intake, exercise, your feelings and mood and any other relevant factors. You may find that simply altering your bedtime and your coffee and alcohol intake can improve your sleep.


How Clinical Partners can help

Simply call our clinical team in confidence on 0203 326 9160 and we will recommend the most suitable therapist or support group for your individual situation.

Read more about how we can help with sleep issues in later life.


Emilie Head

Emilie Head Business Development and Content Editor BA(Hons), ACMA, MBACP

Emilie has three main roles at Clinical Partners – managing our NHS Partnerships, developing the services our Clinicians offer and writing and editing web content.

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