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Old 03-12-2008, 12:32 PM
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Default Light Therapy for the Elderly

Senior adults often suffer from complications associated with sleep. With decreased quality of sleep, activities of daily living can be significantly impaired. If you, or someone you love, is experiencing an age-related sleep complication, it may be necessary to seek medical attention to address the health issue.

Sleep disorders among the elderly population can be attributed to medical complications or may simply be attributed to a change in circadian rhythm. When sleep disorders in the aging adult become a frequent concern, it is important to find a specialist who understand the unique complications the senior adult experiences. Because sleep disorders of the elderly are different from that of the younger population, the examination, diagnosing and treatment of the sleep complication will also be vastly different.

What we may perceive as a sleep disorder may actually not be a sleep disorder at all. In fact, many senior adults experience a change in their natural sleep rhythm resulting in the need to go to bed one to two hours earlier than the general adult population, often rising one to two hours earlier as well. Therefore, before utilizing any form of sleep aids, it may be prudent to assess the sleep times as an adjustment of one to two hours may be all it will take to promote a healthier sleeping style. In other words, a bed time choice may be the most significant factor influencing sleep complications.

In further assessing the sleep cycle and circadian rhythms, we find that many senior adults, without regard to their bed time, will still rise in the morning at the same time; usually one to two hours before the general adult population. As a result, the day time sleepiness may be due, in part, to the late bed time hours. This is to say, if you attempt to go to bed later and rise in the morning later, odds are highly unlikely this selection of sleep schedule will promote an improvement in the sleep disorder. Because morning wake times are typically the same without regard to bed time, the bed time must be earlier to ensure enough quality sleep.

If sleeping during the day is a complication, some physicians recommend the use of light therapy in the aging adult. However, many adults with sleep disorders simply do not like the effects of light therapy and, as a result, often do not comply with this form of treatment. Therefore, if after adjusting bed time sleep schedules, the senior adult continues to experience sleep disorder or complications with daytime sleepiness, it may be prudent to use sleep aides.

As with any complications involving a sleep disorder, it is important to seek medical attention early when the complication begins. Because many sleep disorders of the elderly are related to underlying health complications, once these health complications are resolved, the sleep complication usually resolves. However, because circadian rhythms adjust with age, engaging in an earlier bed time may be the one key factor that will influence more quality sleep, especially when rising early is more common. While light therapy and prescription sleep aides may be recommended, many senior adults do not prefer to utilize these options in their healthcare management.
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