Health > Sleep Disorders In Elders: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Ways to Deal With It
15th Jan 2021

Sleep Disorders In Elders: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Ways to Deal With It

A nutritious diet is essential to stay healthy in the growing years of life. Similarly, along with a healthy diet, a sound sleep of 7 to 8 hours is also necessary to keep the elderly body fit. If elders don’t get proper sleep at night, then this problem is considered to be a sleep disorder. Sleep disorder is enough to harm a person, both mentally and physically. Initially, sleeping disorders cause minor issues like headache and tiredness, but as elders age, these issues turn into severe illnesses.

According to the Neurology Society of India, there has been a lack of information on diseases in regard to Sleep-Related Disorders (SRD). But don’t worry here we have brought you a comprehensive blog that will educate you about the sleep disorders in elderly, causes, types, and symptoms of sleeping disorders. Further, we will also reveal some useful tips and ways to deal with sleep disorders, followed by a set of frequently asked questions, where we will answer all your queries.

So what are you waiting for? Scroll down and have a clear understanding of sleep disorder in the elderly.

What is a Sleep Disorder?

As far as the meaning of sleep disorder is concerned, let us tell you that it simply refers to the conditions that severely affect the sleeping patterns or the ability to have a sound sleep. Most people associate sleep with laziness, while it is like a medicine for the human body. The right amount of sleep keeps the body fit but at the same time, unhealthy sleeping patterns can result in bad health in the elderly.

Common Symptoms of Sleep Disorder in Elderly

Before we move ahead on sleep problems in the elderly, let’s quickly have a glance at the common sleep disorder symptoms in elders:

  • Irritability in nature
  • Tiredness
  • Feeling uneasy
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of sleep till late at night
  • Body fatigue
  • Nervousness
  • To lose focus on something
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Causes of Sleep Disorders in Elders

There can be many reasons behind sleepiness- like stress, discomfort, and depression. Sleep deprivation might occur due to any of these problems, which directly affects the elders’ body and brain, leading to other health issues. Sometimes this problem becomes so severe that elders experience talking in sleep, dreaming more and walking in sleep, and so on. Here we have listed some common sleep disorders causes:

  • Chronic pain like Arthritis
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Respiratory issues
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of ageing
  • Some other medications

Types of Sleep Disorders In Elderly

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

The patient suffering from this sleep disorder does not observe average sleep time at night. They were waking up at bedtime and sleeping while awake is the main symptom of this sleep disorder. It happens mostly in the drivers of long route trains, truck drivers, employees working night shifts.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep problem in which a person has difficulty breathing while sleeping. When sleeping in sleep apnea, the nose’s airflow decreases because it fills the node’s air and upper part of the mouth. There are following types of this disorder:

1: Obstructive sleep apnea

It is a common type of this disorder. In this, due to certain interruptions in the body, the breathing problem starts. According to the study, 90–96% of sleep apnea cases are associated with this type.

2: Central Sleep Apnea

Breathing stops in this disorder and starts on its own for a while and the muscles stop receiving proper signals from the brain.

3. Complex Sleep Apnea

This disorder has symptoms of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. In this too, the patient has a problem of breathing while sleeping.

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

Elderly suffering from this kind of sleep disorder get used to waking up a few hours late. Gradually, the body keeps adapting accordingly. To avoid this disorder, a person should decide his bedtime. Elders should avoid sleeping during the day and reduce the habit of watching TV till late at night.


The condition of insomnia arises when the problem of sleeplessness persists for a long time. It can lead to several mental and physical issues. Insomnia or inability to sleep is a disorder known to be accompanied by sleeplessness or the pain of not sleeping for the required time. Insomnia usually has both signs and symptoms, with various sleep, medical, and psychiatric disorders associated with continued sleep disturbances. Insomnia can occur at any age, but it is widespread, especially among the elderly. Insomnia is of two types:

1. Short term or acute insomnia

It is the inability to sleep well for less than a month. Insomnia is present when it is difficult to initiate sleep or difficulty maintaining sleep or sleep that occurs without elation or low quality. This type of insomnia is current despite adequate opportunities and conditions for rest and which problems in the daily system may arise. Short term or acute insomnia is also known as ‘periods stress-related insomnia’.

2. Chronic Insomnia

It lasts for more than a month. It may be due to some other disorder or primary disorder. Elders suffering from high levels of stress hormones or suffering from chronic or chronic insomnia are more at risk of cytokine levels. Its effect may vary depending on its cause. It may include muscle fatigue and mental fatigue. Elders who suffer from this disorder are likely to experience hallucinations. Chronic insomnia can produce double vision.


Hypersomnia is reversible with insomnia. Such people get to sleep in small intervals. It is a sleep disorder in which one gets more sleep than usual, and a person does not feel refreshed even after getting enough sleep at night. There is lethargy on such people throughout the day.

Some Easy Ways to Ensure Better Sleep For Elders

  • Make a habit of sleeping on time. It may seem difficult in the beginning, but later, it will gradually start benefiting.
  • Keep the bedroom clean. People sleep quickly in a clean and peaceful atmosphere.
  • Most people now use mobile phones at bedtime. Using the phone in the dark hurts the eyes, leading to sleeping disorders.

Home Remedies For Sleep Disorders In Elderly

1: Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation

For dealing with sleep disorders, elders can resort to exercise, yoga, and meditation. These three different activities will work to keep all parts of the body healthy, including the brain. Mainly for peace of mind, the elderly must do exercise, yoga and meditation. It will not only help them to have a sound sleep but will also ensure better overall health in elders. Meditation is anyway a miraculous way not just to deal with sleep disorders but for all other health-related issues of elders. Know about the benefits of meditation for the elderly here.

2: Adequate Vitamins

Vitamins are an essential element in the body for healthy sleep. Vitamin-B works as an insomnia preventer. In particular, vitamin-B6 of the vitamin-B group works to relieve mental stress and sleep problems in the old-adults. Vitamin-A plays a vital role in brain functioning, especially when it comes to sleep and memory. For brain health, elders can consume foods rich in Vitamin-A.

Stress is one of the most significant barriers to sleeplessness. To get rid of this, elders should include foods rich in vitamin-C in the daily diet, such as strawberries, tomatoes and oranges etc. Elderly can also eat Broccoli to get important vitamins. Read about the benefits of Broccoli here.

Hot bath

As a home remedy for sleeping disorders, elders should take a bath with warm water (tolerable). Hot water will refresh by eliminating body fatigue, which can help in getting restful sleep.


Elders can also resort to a steam bath to get a good sleep. This facility is available in many health clubs and gyms. It helps to relieve body fatigue. When the body is tired, elders get a good sleep. Ensure to take steam baths under the supervision of health experts. Remember, taking a steam bath without precautions can be risky.

Tips To Prevent Sleeping Disorders in Elderly

You can follow these tips to get relief from insomnia.

  • Try to sleep and wake up on time.
  • Do not consume alcohol and other intoxicants.
  • Do not eat fatty, fried and spicy foods.
  • Try walking daily in the morning.
  • Keep your room clean and refreshed; the mess of the room can spoil your mood.
  • Get a full body massage two or three days a week.
  • Try to be happy.
  • Drink Masala Tea before bed.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many hours of sleep is necessary?

Sleep disorders have become a significant problem today. According to the Flips Global Survey, more than one billion people worldwide are struggling with sleeplessness. The problem is that 80 percent of these people do not understand insomnia and do not treat it. According to the survey, more than 66% of India’s people feel a lack of sleep. Experts say that adults must sleep for eight to nine hours for their excellent health.

2. When to consult a doctor for a sleep disorder?

People who regularly find it difficult to sleep and experience unhealthy sleep patterns should consult a doctor. Generally, elders should consult a doctor for sleep disorder when;

  • They regularly experience difficulty sleeping.
  • They have slept for seven to eight hours the night before but still, feel tired all through the day.
  • They have a reduced ability to perform daily activities.
  • They snore or experience difficulty breathing.

Elders who sleep and wake-up time or generally follow a healthy sleep routine or do not face any problem while sleeping do not need to consult a doctor.

3. Can I take sleeping pills to deal with sleep disorders?

Sleeping pills can cause side effects by calming the nerves and staying asleep for long periods if taken for a long time. Excess intake of these drugs can indirectly damage nerves and their functions. But if your doctor prescribes the sleeping pills, there’s nothing to worry about while taking sleeping pills. However, we strictly advise elders not to take any sleeping pills to treat sleep disorders without consulting your doctor.

4. What are the guidelines after sleep disorder treatment?

After medical treatment, patients should be careful about their lifestyle habits and sleep routines. Elders should try and maintain healthy habits so that they do not suffer from sleep sickness again. Besides, regular exercise and intake of medicines can help people get comfortable to sleep.

5. How long does it take to recover from a sleep disorder?

Sleep sickness has painless treatments, and it does not take long to recover. If taken proper treatment, elders start showing improvement right from the first or second week of treatment. Old-adults who use operations or machines to treat sleep disorder are likely to have a quick recovery but go through any operation or machine treatment only after consulting with your doctor.

6. Is the treatment of sleep disorders permanent?

Treatment of sleep disorders caused by stress anxiety or workload does not include such standardised methods of treatment. These mainly include lifestyle changes and improvement in living conditions. Sleep can be disturbed due to these reasons as these factors can come into play at any time. However, for cases such as sleep apnea, where surgical treatment is an option or machines may be used, treatment may be permanently effective.


Although sleep disorders can occur in anyone anytime, the elderly are more vulnerable to such problems. If not treated on time, sleep disorders can lead to fatal consequences later. Therefore, it is essential to stay aware of this disease as much as possible. We advise you to follow the home remedies mentioned above to ease sleep disorders. Maybe any adult member of the family or anyone around is suffering from this problem, so share this information with other people as well.

Also, if you’re not able to look after the old-adults in the family to help them overcome sleep disorders, you can opt for the professional help from us, at Emoha.

Emoha is a leading elder care provider in Delhi-NCR. With a sole objective of helping the elders to lead a happy life, our professional caregivers always keep the elders health at the top of their priority list. You can connect with us at 1800-123-445555 or