for your health
Sweeter sleepfor seniors
Healthy sleep habits
for older adults
By Malia Jacobson
MANY THINGS IN life improve with age: red
wine, family heirlooms, a great pair of jeans.
Unfortunately, sleep quality often suffers as the
years pass. The Journal of Clinical Outcomes
Management reports that 40 percent of people
65 or older experience sleep problems. “Older
adults often feel less rested because they wake
more frequently at night and experience less
deep sleep than younger adults,” says Costco
member Robert S. Rosenberg, medical director
of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott
Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona.
“Older adults also experience higher rates
of physical ailments that negatively affect sleep,”
says Costco member Damon Raskin, a board-certified internist in Pacific Palisades,
California. Arthritis, congestive heart failure,
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, see
page 55) and prostate enlargement (which leads
to frequent nighttime bathroom trips) can all
cut into sleep quality, he notes.
These sleep interruptions are more than
a mere inconvenience; age-related shifts in
sleep patterns affect the brain’s ability to store
memories, leading to forgetfulness.
According to new research from scientists at the University of California, Berkeley,
changes in the brain’s middle frontal lobe
result in less time spent in deep, restorative
slow-wave sleep. As slow-wave sleep dwindles, memory suffers, because memories are
processed during this stage of slumber.
The Berkeley study found that the quality of deep sleep of adults in their 70s was 75
percent lower than that of adults in their 20s;
the older adults scored 55 percent lower than
younger adults on memory tests.
Can older adults halt the decline in sleep
quality? Absolutely, says Rosenberg. Improved
sleep habits can result in better-quality sleep
for seniors, starting tonight.
It’s a common misconception that
humans require less sleep as they age, says
Rosenberg. This false assumption leads many
adults to shortchange their sleep requirements
in their later years. “Adults gener-
ally need between seven and nine
hours of sleep per night, regard-
less of age,” Rosenberg says.
Adults over 65 years of age who live at
home take an average of 8. 8 medications each
day, according to the American Journal of
Health-System Pharmacy. Some of these medications come with an unintended side effect:
sleep problems. Commonly prescribed antidepressants, including Prozac and Zoloft, can
contribute to insomnia in some patients. Over-the-counter sleep aids such as Tylenol PM can
leave lingering daytime grogginess that throws
off sleep patterns, and can worsen restless legs
syndrome, a condition experienced by up to 10
percent of the U.S. population, according to
the National Institutes of Health.
For better sleep: Always ask your physician or pharmacist about sleep-related side
effects for any new prescription, take energizing medications during the morning hours
and talk to your physician about alternatives
to problematic pills.
Naps for adults are now fashionable; new
research from England’s Surrey University
encourages older adults to reenergize with an
afternoon nap. However, according to
Rosenberg, long late-afternoon naps can disrupt sleep patterns and exacerbate sleep
The Costco Connection
Costco and Costco.com carry a variety of
items that can aid sleep, including anti-inflammatories, ear plugs, herbal supplements and more.
problems in older adults. “Napping reduces
levels of a neurochemical in the brain that
builds our drive to sleep at night,” he says.
“Long naps interrupt this process, so people
don’t feel sleepy at night.”
For better sleep: For the best siesta, set an
alarm for 30 to 40 minutes, and avoid napping
after 4 p.m.
Aching and awake
According to the National Sleep
Foundation, two-thirds of adults who experience chronic pain report sleep difficulties.
Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium
(Aleve) can help with nighttime pain caused
by arthritis, but they are not a cure-all, notes
Raskin. Any medication comes with some
risks, and these pills aren’t for everyone, particularly those with stomach ulcers, heart failure or high blood pressure. Ask your doctor.
For better sleep: Physical therapy, exercise and new injectable medications can help
relieve arthritis pain that disrupts sleep.
JUNE 2013 ;e Costco Connection 27
For most adults, exposure to bright morning light helps support healthy sleep patterns.
But those suffering from advanced sleep