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Finding the Relief for Insomnia in Older Adults


Finding the Relief for Insomnia in Older Adults


After retirement, enjoying your rest and siestas during the day may lessen your hours of night sleep. It can be normal. If tossing and turning in your bed is affecting your health and moods in a bad way, however, it is not to be ignored. If you have certain concerns, such as a chronic medical condition, lonely or solitary living, or financial securities, ignoring sleeplessness isn’t advisable because you could be suffering from insomnia.

Insomnia or difficulty falling into sleep and staying asleep is experienced by many older adults. That doesn’t mean, however, that seniors only need less hours of sleep. In a study that the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) conducted, healthy seniors report “getting a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night…” It was concluded that though aging can “make certain aspects of sleep more difficult, many older adults said they still feel good during the day.”

Everyone needs enough sleep to feel rested. If you are “counting sheep” every night and it isn’t working, you need a better strategy – see a qualified therapist.


Aging Naturally Changes Sleep

Your doctor may tell you that sleep could be more difficult as you will get older. This is because certain biological processes will change with age, triggering a shift in your circadian rhythm. Studies show that older adults tend to sleep for shorter spans and more lightly than younger people, or when they were younger. For some seniors, it is a natural effect of aging as their REM sleep becomes shorter and lighter. What is meant by this?

Healthy, younger people who enjoy quality sleep enter into all the four stages of non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep and ends in the fifth stage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The latter is the time when dreaming occurs. The whole cycle takes between 90 and110 minutes to complete. A healthy, normal sleep has about four to five NREM-REM cycles. For older adults, there could be the tendency for the sleep not to progress into deep stage, thus cutting the cycle span.

This explains why it is common for older adults to experience an insomnia pattern that is described as waking up during the “late, terminal or advanced sleep-phase.” This means that one can fall into sleep without much difficulty, but they usually wake up just before the crack of dawn and not be able to go back to sleep. This is consistent with the symptom of chronic insomnia.

Your personal habits affect the ability of your sleep to be naturally changed. For instance, taking naps during the day, drinking coffee, or staying indoors most of the time may change the circadian rhythm. Your metabolism is also likely to slow down, affecting your toilet schedule, maybe waking you up earlier than you used to. Thus, don’t be surprised that you have become a “morning person” when you used to love staying longer in bed when you were younger.


Why is Sleep Elusive

There are many other possible causes of geriatric insomnia. Age related medical conditions may contribute to your sleep problems. For example, continence problems, prostate enlargement and diabetes may cause your sleep to be disrupted because of frequent urination at night. Neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease, may also have insomnia as a symptom.

If you are taking medications, any of those can have side effects affecting your sleep. Aside from the adverse effects, taking multiple medications or “polypharmacy” may bring increased risk for drug interactions. Taking medications before bedtime may likewise trigger insomnia.

In addition, insomnia may similarly be related to an emotional issue or condition, such as depression and anxiety, which have high incidences among seniors.


Depression and Insomnia

Studies reveal that an estimated 80 percent of older adults with depression also report suffering from the symptoms of insomnia. This represents about six million Americans, says Web MD. It is important to see the connection between chronic sleep deprivation and geriatric depression. Could depression be the primary cause of your chronic insomnia or is it a secondary factor?

Many older adults suffer from depression and don’t receive proper treatment because the symptom, which is sleeplessness, is often ignored. Discerning which one must be critically made by a professional. Like any case of clinical depression, it has symptoms that may not dissipate without diagnosis and treatment. The usual form that affects the older adults is called “subsyndromal depression.” The origin isn’t clear because there can be more than a single cause for it to be developed.

According to Healthline, the vulnerability of older adults to depression could be genetic or “a family history of depression.” They can also be naturally prone to the condition because of biological factors, such as having “low levels of key neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain, namely serotonin and norepinephrine.” Certain depressive psychosocial factors, upsetting life events, an introverivet nature, and age-related medical conditions can also be critical influencing factors.

Healthline also cites the possible reasons that may lead to the complications of geriatric depression. These can be “limited mobility, isolation, facing mortality, transitioning from work to retirement, financial hardships, prolonged substance abuse, deaths of friends and loved ones, widowhood or divorce, and chronic medical conditions.”


Are You Suffering from Insomnia

While insomnia has a high prevalence among seniors, having difficulty sleeping doesn’t automatically makes you a sufferer. It is normal to experience sleeplessness occasionally, especially during a dramatic transition in life. It is, nonetheless, always advantageous to seek professional help immediately when it persists; considering the value of sleep on your physical and emotional health.

When should you see a professional? A Place for Mom offers these signs and symptoms of insomnia in older adults to help you decide when to seek professional help.

  • Taking more than 30-45 minutes to fall asleep
  • Having trouble staying asleep
  • Waking up early, unable to fall back asleep*
  • Depression
  • Feeling drowsy, tired or exhausted
  • Complaining of being up all night
  • Accidents due to sleep deprivation
  • Irritability
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty concentrating

Take note that insomnia could be related to a medical or an emotional condition. Seeing a doctor for a medical evaluation is sensible to rule out the possibilities of a medical condition or the side effects of polypharmacy. If your doctor does not find anything wrong with your health, the next best step may be to see a counselor/therapist.


Sleeping Like a Babe: It is Possible

Your sleep pattern will most likely change throughout your life. In your twilight years, you may experience biological changes leading to an earlier “sleep-wake cycle,” but make no mistake that you will still need about seven to nine hours of sleep. Sleep is important, regardless of age. You need it to boost your immunity to fight off diseases. When this sleep requirement is not met, you can suffer from the effects of sleeplessness – health complications, inability to focus, irritability, etc.

Sleeping peacefully like a baby can be so elusive when there are medical or emotional factors triggering insomnia. An independent therapist contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC, can help in the diagnosis and treatment of geriatric insomnia; particularly when it is related to depression, anxiety, or an emotional concern. If the trigger is a medical factor, the support of a counselor can also be productive, if you are alone or just want to talk to someone.

Sleep is vital in supporting your health as an older adult. If you are bothered by the symptoms of insomnia, don’t let roadblocks prevent you from finding relief from insomnia. Isn’t it time to get the quality of sleep you need? Contact
Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC and make an appointment today.

Confidential / Private Sessions

Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC contracts with Licensed professional counselors/therapists/psychologists who provide a friendly, caring, and relaxed atmosphere in the Southern Pines/Pinehurst/Aberdeen/Raeford area. These independently contracted therapists/counselors assist adult individuals, couples, families, and children with resolving issues and getting back to enjoying their lives. Whether you are non-military or military, the independently contracted therapists with Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC are able and happy to assist you!


Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, NC, Montgomery County, NC, Richmond County, NC, Randolph County, NC, Chatham County, NC

Cities: Southern Pines NC, Pinehurst NC, Aberdeen NC, Taylortown NC, Pinebluff NC, West End NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Ashley Heights NC, Ashmont NC, Five Points NC, Wind Blow NC, Jackson Springs NC, Whispering Pines NC, Vass NC, Cameron NC, Carthage NC, Eastwood NC, Lakeview NC, Narrow Ridge NC, Robbins NC, Roseland NC, Tramway NC, Troy NC, Zion Grove NC, Biscoe NC

We are located at:

Carolina Counseling Services - Southern Pines, NC
780 NW Broad St. Suite 210
Southern Pines, NC 28387

Our Mailing Address:

PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

How Do I Set Up my FIRST Appointment?

  • Call: (910) 725-6336 (Fastest way to schedule)
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  • Click here and use our Contact Form (You must include your phone number, because replies will only be made by telephone to ensure security/privacy)
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  • Appointment scheduling for NEW clients: Mon-Fri 8:30am-5:15pm
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Choose your Therapist

  • Kristin Vernon, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Children, Adolescents, Couples, Families, Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem Issues, Grief and Loss, Communication Skills, Divorce, Adjustment Disorders, Mood Disorders, Coping Skills, Parenting, Family Conflict, Marital Conflict, Relationship Issues
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, cash
    Location: Southern Pines, NC
  • Gretchen Montesanto, MA, LPC, NCC

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Teens, Individuals, Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem Issues, Grief and Loss, Stress, LGBT, Adjustment Disorder, Motivation, Life Transitions, Mood Disorders, Military Spouses

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Southern Pines, NC
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare and Cash
    Location: Southern Pines, NC
  • Jaime J. Fitzpatrick MS, LPCS, LCAS

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Adults, Families and Couples, Anxiety, PTSD, Trauma and Abuse Recovery, Depression, Military Life Issues, Adjustment Disorder, Relationship Issues, Marriage Counseling, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Focused Therapy, Addictions, Emotional Disturbance, Coping Skills, Impulsivity, Grief and Loss, Self-Esteem
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare and Cash

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Southern Pines, NC
  • Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
    Insurance: BCBS, Medicare,  Tricare Prime/Select and Cash

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Pinehurst, NC and Southern Pines, NC
  • Kathryn Wiens, PsyD. HSP-P

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Adult, Individuals, Couples and Families.
    Insurance: BCBS, Medicare, Tricare Prime/Select, Cash, HSA and FSA accepted

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Pinehurst, NC and Southern Pines, NC
  • Tracy Goldberg, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Individuals, Adolescents, Adults, Couples, Children and Families. Attention Deficit, Oppositional Defiance, Behavioral Issues, Peer Relationships, Family Conflict, Depression, Anxiety, Parenting Anxiety, ADHD, Self-Esteem Issues, Family Conflict/Divorce, Marriage Counseling, Adjustment Disorders, Relationship Issues, Grief and Loss, Communication Skills, Behavioral Issues, Coping Skills, Mood Disorders, Parent Skill Building, Christian Counseling upon request
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, Cash, HRA and FSA accepted

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Southern Pines, NC
  • Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Southern Pines, NC