HOW SLEEP CHANGES AS YOU AGE
Over the lifespan of the average person, a number of changes take place. There are alterations in body size, shape, and height, changes in hormone levels, competency, brain activity, and social development. One of the changes that tends to hover under the radar is the cycle of sleep.
There are four distinct stages of sleep cycles and as we age, the number of total minutes spent in each of these stages decreases. While a number of life factors exist, studies indicate there is no clear reason why sleep patterns begin to change and difficulty sleeping becomes more prevalent.
Those moving past middle and into older adulthood may be at a greater risk for disturbed or abnormal sleep for various reasons. Those of older age tend to face an increased number of health risks and chronic medical conditions such as arthritis, dementia, congestive heart failure, depression, respiratory disorders, and acid reflux. There is often a general misconception that altered sleep patterns is a normal part of aging, so the significant alterations are not identified as a symptom of an already present condition. Instead they remain undetected by professionals, because the individuals experiencing the change believe it to be a normal part of aging. Weighted blankets can help senior citizens maintain healthy sleep cycles.
Of particular note is the incorporation of sleep changes for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. While scientists do not completely understand why sleep patterns are altered, there is an assumption that it has to do with the disease’s impact on the brain. Nighttime restlessness and a decrease in quality sleep can severely impact the individual’s level of functioning in a number of areas including: end-of-day exhaustion, the internal body clock, verbal and nonverbal communication, and visual perception.
WEIGHTED BLANKETS FOR THE ELDERLY
There are a variety of treatment options available to those experiencing sleep disturbances. If it is an acute problem, the use of prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids may be appropriate. However, there are also a number of non-drug treatments. Below are a few examples:
- Creating a regular routine for meals, going to bed, and waking up,
- Increasing exposure to sunlight, particularly during the morning hours,
- Regular exercise,
- Avoidance of stimulants like caffeine,
- Treating any immediate or disruptive pain, and
- Creating an environment that encourages restful sleep.
Additionally, the use of weight as a therapeutic treatment option is becoming more readily available to the elderly. It is associated with relatively low risk and is typically lower in cost than other options. Clinically referred to as deep-touch therapy, the use of items such as weighted blankets provides the individual with a sensation similar to how one would feel being wrapped in a swaddling blanket or a hug. This deep pressure can be used to promote a sense of security and relaxation. Studies indicated that deep, or pressured, touch calms and relaxes the central nervous system. Gently-applied, deep pressure encourages the body’s production of serotonin, which in turn elevates a person’s mood. The serotonin developed through this process is converted by the body into melatonin prompting tiredness and sleep in a natural pattern. In other words, this deep pressure promotes the brain and body to work together to function on a self-regulated sleep cycle.
RISKS OF WEIGHTED BLANKETS FOR THE ELDERLY
Due to age, there are a few risks, thought low, associated with the use of weighted blankets with the elderly. Caution is recommended should someone of older age wish to try deep pressure therapy if medical conditions such as congestive heart failure or respiratory disorders exist as it can exacerbate symptoms and potentially cause harm rather than benefit.
While one may age chronologically, it is not a requirement to age emotionally or spiritually. To sleep restfully is to enhance the waking hours and, in turn, the intrinsic joy of life.
WHERE TO BUY WEIGHTED BLANKETS FOR THE ELDERLY
Weighted blankets for adults that can be used for sensory therapy are currently on sale from Yorkville Blankets. Yorkville blankets are a premium quality blanket brand that are affordable enough to try out if you are buying your first weighted blanket, but are high quality an made to last. Yorkville Weighted Blankets provide sensory input without too much heat so you can get a good night sleep without tossing and turning or overheating. These weighted blankets can be purchased here or on Amazon.