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Can the Elderly Take Sleeping Aids?

By Nikhil Mehta, 9:00 am on

Many elderly individuals struggle with either falling asleep or remaining asleep throughout the night. In general, these sleep issues are recognized as insomnia. To treat insomnia, several types of treatment may be used. The most common treatment is the use of sleep aids.

Are Sleep Aids Safe for the Elderly?

Currently, if an elderly individual complains of being unable to get to sleep in the evening or unable to stay asleep throughout the night, it is not uncommon for a doctor to prescribe a sleep aid to help with the problem. Most sleep aids are safe for adults aged 20-60, but for those older than 60, it is important to know that sleep aids are not always safe.

The reason that sleep aids are not always safe for the elderly is two-fold. First, it is widely recognized that elderly individuals metabolize drugs differently than younger people. According to a recent study in the Southern Medical Journal, it was found that seniors absorb oral drugs more quickly than those who are younger. This is simply a symptom of aging, and it leads to the next point.

As most Palm Desert home care providers know, when drugs metabolize and absorb more quickly in an elderly person’s body, the individual is more radically affected. Most of the common sleep aids prescribed by doctors contain diazepam, temazepam or benzodiazepines. These drugs can impair cognitive thinking and psychomotor skills, and alteration in thinking and motor skills comes on much faster and stronger in the senior population. These changes can result in slips, falls, and confusion. A recent study in Drugs & Aging found that a vast number of elderly falls have been associated with the benzodiazepines found in sleep aids.

So What Should Seniors Do?

It is important to always consult a doctor before taking any over-the-counter or prescription drug. In some cases, sleep aids may be the best or only option for seniors, and they may require a live-in or hourly caregiver to monitor their safety while on the drug.

Melatonin is another option with fewer side effects that may work for some older adults. But if it is at all possible, seniors should first try to improve their sleeping patterns with non-pharmaceutical remedies. Attending behavioral therapy sessions and learning processes like meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and stimulus control are ultimately a better long-term choice than sleeping aids.

Some seniors have poor sleep hygiene, which can lead to poor sleep quality. For help revamping your loved one’s bedtime routine, consider an in-home caregiver who can assist with routine nighttime activities and promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of live-in, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s care in Palm Desert, to learn more. Our experienced Care Managers are available 24/7 to answer questions, discuss care options, or just help you get to know us better. Call (760) 345-0001 today.