According to a Statistics Canada study, sleep disorders are very common among adults and the elderly. Approximately 40 percent of men and nearly 60 percent of women have trouble falling or staying asleep “occasionally, some of the time, or all of the time.”
When sleep evades us on a regular basis, this can affect our health and quality of life in various ways. It’s not surprising, then, that many insomniacs look for a solution to their problem.
Is medication the best solution? Not always. Some sedatives come with more drawbacks than benefits, especially in the elderly. Other than the risk of addiction, these drugs are also associated with adverse effects that can have serious consequences. For example, they can cause drowsiness during the day, as well as confusion and problems with memory or balance. As a result, they double the risk of falls and hip fractures in older individuals. This risk is a serious risk, because a hip fracture can lead to a loss of independence and even death. Sleeping pills are also associated with a higher risk of traffic accidents.
There are no over-the counter sedatives. Medications sold as sleep-aids are intended for a different primary use, but are known to cause drowsiness. Even though they are available without a prescription, they are not suitable for everyone and should be avoided in the elderly. Consult a pharmacist before choosing a sleep aid, to determine whether the product is appropriate for your situation.
Before turning to medication, it is recommended that you optimize your sleep routine by trying to eliminate anything that can hinder it. For example, avoid consuming caffeine after 3 p.m., don’t eat within three hours of your bedtime, and limit your alcohol intake. Also avoid bright lights (e.g. television, tablet, smartphone) within an hour of going to bed.
In order to promote sleep, it’s helpful to get up and go to bed at roughly the same time every day, even on the weekend. In the hour preceding your bedtime, choose calming activities such as a bath or shower, reading, listening to music, meditating, doing relaxation exercises, etc.
Don’t hesitate to consult your pharmacist if you have problems sleeping. If you take medication, your pharmacist will make sure it isn’t affecting your sleep and will suggest solutions tailored to your needs.