Ever visited your grandparents and wondered why old people sleep so much? It is no secret that the elderly like to sleep more than children and adults and love to take afternoon naps. There are many reasons why humans sleep more as they age, in some cases it is completely normal but sometimes it may be a sign of a medical problem!
Excessive sleep in the elderly
If your elderly parents or grandparents seem to be getting a lot of extra sleep it may or may not be cause for alarm. One of the most common reasons old folks need to get a few extra hours of sleep per day is the diminished quality of sleep they get at night. When you are old your joints and muscles tend to be in pain which can make getting deep sleep difficult. Other common reasons include their changing body clocks and adapting to retirement!
What is a normal amount of sleep for an old person?
Judging what is a normal amount of sleep can be difficult as there is considerable variation from person to person. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep per night but the elderly can sleep up to 10 to 12 hours per day! While this might seem like cause for alarm the elderly need these extra hours of rest to recharge their aging body.
It is also important to keep in mind a persons health and lifestyle. If someone is suffering from many chronic illnesses and always seems to be sick it might be a good idea for them to get even more sleep. In some cases with the very old that are in poor health may sleep up to 16 or 17 hours per day while only eating one meal!
How much sleep is too much?
It is difficult to say how much sleep is too much for an old person as health factors play such a large role. It is important that senior citizens live an active lifestyle and avoid staying in bed all day, but if they want to sleep in a little after retirement there should be no health concerns.
Remember, in some extreme situations spending too much time in bed can cause bed sores! If your elderly loved one spends 18 or more hours in bed, on a chair or lying on a couch keep an eye out for bed sores, ulcers and numbness. Irritation and developing sores are a sign that something is wrong and it is time to see a doctor.
Is sleeping a lot a sign of dementia?
Medicine is not sure what causes dementia and Alzheimer’s but extra sleep does seem to be an early warning sign. Often times elderly people with both diseases will experience problems getting deep sleep at night then oversleep during the day.
Medication and sleep
Many medications, especially pain killers, can cause extra sleep. On top of medications that might cause sleep loss sickness and disease can also result in needing to spend extra time in bed catching some z’s.
What causes the need for extra sleep?
Many internal and external factors cause the need for extra sleep as we age. One of the most basic reasons is that our bodies simply are not as strong as they were when we were young. On top of that, sleep quality decreases as we age resulting in afternoon naps, early bedtimes and extra time spent sleeping.
How to prevent oversleeping
Oversleeping can be a problem in the elderly, especially if they are isolated from friends and family. In some cases old people will turn to sleep when they are bored as a way to pass time. Need some help preventing an elderly family member from spending all day in bed? Try these fun tips:
- Set up a daily routine. Scheduling a daily routing can get an elderly family member up and moving, keeping them from laying in bed or sitting on their favorite chair napping all day. Sticking to the routine can be tough at first but once adjustments have been made it becomes tough to break.
- Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet with foods that are easy to digest and unlikely to cause digestive problems can make it easier to get deeper, longer sleep. Try eating more fruits and vegetables while avoiding red meats, spicy foods and sugary drinks.
- Exercise every day.
Exercise is a great way to tire out the body and help you fall asleep faster. Try cardio exercises or weightlifting for a food, full body workout.
- Try sleep masks and earplugs. If you are forced to sleep in a loud or bright room try using a sleep mask to block the light and ear plugs to block background noise!