By Julie Chetney, Director of Senior Services

Can’t get a good night’s sleep? If so, you’re not alone. It is estimated that one in four Americans develop insomnia each year. You already know about the personal anguish of sleepless nights, but do you know that insufficient sleep can cause physical and psychological problems?  Here is a quick test of your Sleep IQ -

True or False - Insomnia is self-inflicted through bad sleep habits.

        False.  Stress is the most common cause of short-term insomnia

True or False - Chronic insomnia is caused by a psychiatric problem.

        False. Conditioned insomnia is the most common cause of chronic insomnia. 

True or False - Insomniacs must use sleep medication regularly.

False.  For short-term insomnia, sleep medication usually are only needed for up to two weeks. 

True or False - Prescription drugs are the last resort for insomniacs.

False.  Medication combined with therapy is the most effective way to treat short-term insomnia.

Sleep experts report that the most common consequences of insomnia are daytime fatigue, impaired concentration and increased irritability. However, according to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders, lack of sleep in older persons may not only interfere with quality of life, it may also increase the risk of developing depression and other illnesses.

Simply put, stress is the number one cause of sleep insomnia. Sleep disturbances in older individual may be the result of a variety of factors, including retirement and other changes in activity patterns. Death of a spouse or close friends, and increased use of medications for other health problems may also cause frequent sleepless nights.

So what are the consequences of sleep disturbances? An older adult’s risk of depression appears to be greater among those with insomnia. In addition, the sleep disorders may actually precipitate certain medical and physical illnesses. Such sleepless nights will result in daytime napping and fatigue, which may interfere with quality of life. 

Now that you know insomnia is nothing to ignore, the next step is to seek help from your family physician who may recommend therapy that focuses on changing your sleep habits or may prescribe sleep medications depending on your medical history.

The important thing is that you address your inabilities to follow through with a good night’s sleep and that you work with your physician on correcting your problem so your overall health is improved!

About Julie: Julie Chetney is Director of Senior Services for The St. Luke Family of Caring affiliates. Julie has served in various roles with the organization over her twenty-one year career including Volunteer Coordinator at St. Luke, Senior Living Coordinator at Bishop’s Commons, and Director of St. Francis Commons. An expert in residential care options for older adults, Julie can be reached at 315-326-0840.