How Sleep is Linked to Mental Health

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 15, 2016

You've likely heard all your life that getting a good night's rest is the key to a variety of different things. You'll wake up fresh! You'll have better skin!  But one of the most important takeaways you should have gotten from this advice, is that getting a good night sleep can improve their mental stamina.

It's important to note right off the bat however, that as the body ages, sleeping habits tend to change. This comes at an inopportune time in life, as seniors benefit the most from adequate night of sleep. 

According to Help Guide, sleep is directly related to proper memory care. As the brain ages, it requires more energy to concentrate and form memories during the day. Night is the body's time to repair and restore any cell damage. If these cells are compromised by lack of sleep, the body is more susceptible to other serious diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even breast cancer in women. In order to get a good night sleep, your patients should be receiving anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, but it gets tricker with age as the body begins to produce less of the hormone called melatonin that allows younger bodies to fall asleep.

A change in lifestyle
Sometimes, if seniors complain to you that they aren't getting enough sleep a simple assessment of their lifestyle should be your first course of action. A Place For Mom explained that there are several lifestyle reasons as to why your patients might be staying awake at night. Here is a list of questions you can ask your patients to get to the root of the issue:

  • How is life at the office? If seniors are still working, stress from the office might be a reason for distress.
  • How are the friends and family? Similarly, stress and anxiety from sudden changes like a relocation or death tend to keep people up at night.
  • Have you traveled recently? Sometimes jetlag can throw the body's natural rhythm off.
  • Do you exercise regularly? The body needs regular activity in order to keep it running smoothly.
  • What is your diet like? Eating stimulants like caffeine or alcohol too close to bed can keep anyone up all night.

Medical conditions that need attention
If a patient has come to you and complained about not being able to sleep well, it might not just be a lifestyle problem, however. Mental conditions are often the culprit  behind a bad night sleep, but if they aren't caught soon enough, they can result in poor memory performance. The National Institute on Aging shared this list of medical conditions that have an affect on memory problems:

  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency.
  • Alcoholism or over consumption.
  • Blood clots or tumors.
  • Head injuries like a concussion.
  • Thyroid, kidney or liver problems.
  • Pain from conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis.

All of these issues need swift medical attention if they are currently undiagnosed.

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