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Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Memory

Many older adults experience a form of sleep deprivation from time to time and do not realize the effect it can have on their memory. The National Library of Medicine reports that as many as 50% of seniors have reported symptoms of insomnia. However, insomnia is not a natural part of aging. As a person gets older, they often experience changes in routine, behavior, medication, and overall health. Any of these can increase the risk of developing sleep trouble.

One bad night’s sleep is usually nothing to worry about. However, there are serious negative effects of sleep deprivation over an extended period of time. When insomnia becomes chronic, it can impact your overall health, including memory and cognitive functioning.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Memory

When you sleep at night, your brain processes information, and forms memories. But when that sleep is disrupted, these essential functions cannot take place. After a restless night, you may have trouble remembering things like your new neighbor’s name or the title of a book you wanted to buy.

Sleep deprivation can also make it difficult to focus and learn new information. That is why sometimes you will feel “foggy” when you do not sleep enough. You may also struggle to learn the rules of a new card game or become disoriented when driving somewhere new.

Insomnia in seniors causes sleep-related impairments that may even be mistaken for memory loss or certain forms of dementia.

What are the Causes of Insomnia in the Elderly?

Not getting enough sleep can be frustrating for anyone, especially an older adult. You may toss and turn most of the night, only to spend much of the day struggling to keep your eyes open. When a senior experiences ongoing insomnia, the underlying causes could be any combination of medical, behavioral, or environmental concerns.

Medical conditions affecting sleep in seniors

An undiagnosed or untreated medical condition can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, or frequent trips to the bathroom are just some of the conditions that make it impossible to get a good night’s sleep.

Some seniors take medication that interferes with their natural sleep cycle. Most people will occasionally experience a bad night’s sleep. But if insomnia is a recurring problem, a doctor’s visit is a smart move.

Behavioral Reasons for Sleep Deprivation

Sometimes, your own behaviors get in the way of a restful night’s sleep. But that is not to say that changing these behaviors will be easy. Some seniors may nap too long in the afternoon or not get enough exercise during the day. The key to a good night’s sleep may be taking a morning stroll most days or switching to decaffeinated coffee after lunch.

Environmental Reasons for Poor Sleep

A bedroom should be a comfortable, calm, and restful place. The right mattress and bed linens can make all the difference. Other things to consider include a white noise machine might be a wise purchase if noise is a concern. Some seniors prefer to have a radio set to a low volume. And if outside light is a concern, blackout curtains can help keep a bedroom nice and dark.

What is the Recommended Sleep Amount for Seniors?

How much sleep do seniors need? It is a myth that older adults need less sleep as they age. Most healthy seniors still need seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel their best. In addition to sleeping at night, some older adults nap during the day. There is nothing wrong with a midday rest if it does not interfere with getting a good night’s sleep.

Discover How to Improve Sleep for Seniors

There are several nonpharmaceutical options that can help with insomnia. They suggest developing healthy habits around sleep, such as:

  • Going to sleep and waking up around the same time each day.
  • Making your bedroom a calm and relaxing place.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Avoiding extended naps during the day (or altogether).
  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Managing fluid intake around bedtime.
  • Eating a well-balanced diet.
  • Eating meals on a regular schedule.
  • Take steps to manage stress.

Insomnia is more than a nuisance; it impacts a senior’s quality of life. At Jacaranda Trace, we are dedicated to our members’ total wellness. That is why we offer a complete wellness program and a full calendar of activities, classes, and events. We understand how important it is to offer our members a variety of engaging ways to stay active. It is the way to make aging well easy and fun. To learn more about Jacaranda Trace’s independent living community or to schedule a private tour, give us a call at 941-408-2050 or schedule a personal appointment.