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Frances Shani Parker, Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog: Older Adult Sleep Problems: Drug-Free Solutions

Older Adult Sleep Problems: Drug-Free Solutions
by Frances Shani Parker, November 4, 2011


rk’s sleep tip: i usually can’t fall asleep because i’m working on different writing projects, and as i slip off to sleep, good ideas come throuigh from my unconscious. i keep a notebook & pen by the bed, and the computer is always on. i write down things i’m worried about, close the notebook and put it aside, knowing that the notes or the list will be there in the morning. i also keep a dream journal.


Older adults have sleep problems just like millions of others do. Unfortunately, they often find inappropriate treatments that they may think are effective. This sleep research, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, focused on the perceived effectiveness of older adults’ various sleep treatments. Information was gathered through a mailed questionnaire to a community-based sample of older adults with 242 responding. These are examples of the sleep interventions older adults used:

  1. Watching television, listening to the radio, and reading were the most popular interventions.
  2. Taking medications such as pain medication and prescription sleeping pills were also common. Older adults perceived sleeping pills as being most effective.
  3. Drinking alcohol was another form of self-treatment.

About half of those using alcohol and prescribed over the-counter sleep aids had not discussed their sleep problems with their doctor. Not discussing sleep problems and treatments they are using with their doctors can worsen their problems and possibly put them in serious danger healthwise. Healthcare providers and caregivers should make it a point to initiate conversations with older adults about sleeping patterns.

In these two videos, Dr. David Schulman, Sleep Specialist at Emory University, recommends severak drug-free sleep tips for getting to and staying asleep. Older adults, in addition to keeping their healthcare providers informed, can benefit from them:


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