Insomnia In Seniors: Substance Abuse & Over-Medication

Many seniors struggle with sleep disorders and can’t remember the last time they had a good night’s rest. Rest is more important than most people think. Consider these facts: A study from the journal SLEEP indicates that seniors with sleep apnea are at greater risk for early deaths. Add to that, since sleep apnea impacts the quality of sleep, sleepiness puts seniors at a greater risk for dreaded falls. Other studies report that seniors with persistent insomnia are 1.8 to 3.5 times more likely to remain depressed. These are only some of the ramifications of insomnia. All told, we see that good sleep is critical to a good quality of life. Unfortunately, insomnia in seniors heightens the potential for substance abuse.

Insomnia in seniors has potential for substance abuse.

Alcohol: Potential for Substance Abuse in Senior Insomniacs


It is important to realize, that sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) increases with age. As such, the idea of using alcohol as a sleep aid becomes very tempting. Many seniors mistakenly believe that having a couple of beers or a glass of wine will help them get a better night’s rest. Be aware, for its part, alcohol amplifies, rather than mitigates sleep disorders.

Older adults have a decreased tolerance for alcohol. Moreover, seniors who rely on alcohol often find sleep disruptions the norm in their daily battle against insomnia. While alcohol may induce sleep, its lulling quality comes at a price. The sleep that it induces is a more disruptive sleep especially during the second half of the night. It also has a negative impact on the deep Rapid Eye Movement (REM) which is so critical to feeling rested.

As one might expect, seniors with substance abuse histories are at a higher risk of persistent addictive behavior with respect to alcohol use.

Prescription Medication And Its Negative Effect On Seniors

Older adults may take different types of medication for a number of ailments. Unfortunately, these medications often interfere with getting the sleep they need. Many medications for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, and chronic pain have markedly negative side effects such as changing their biological clock. Few seniors may be aware that a common side effect of some medications is insomnia. A point often overlooked is that a combination of medications can result in a variety of sleep disorders.

Over the Counter (OTC) Medications And Caffeine: A Dangerous Mix

Many seniors unwittingly use medications or stimulants that adversely impact sleep. For example, they take coffee with their breakfast, unaware that caffeine can significantly reduce the quality of their sleep. In fact, caffeine stays in the digestive system for several hours after ingestion.

Many seniors rely on caffeine for a much-needed boost of energy in the mornings. However, this can result in wakefulness at night-time. Meanwhile, other seniors turn to OTC sleep medications to help them sleep. Ultimately, they become dependent on them. Seniors who rely on both OTC medications and caffeine face even greater dangers. They risk compounding their sleep problems and indulging addictive habits that can negatively affect their health.

David York Agency Understands The Risks Of Insomnia In Seniors With Substance Abuse Histories

Of course, many factors contribute to sleep disorders among the elderly, and we recognize that each senior is unique. For more about how seniors and substance abuse, be sure to explore David York Agency’s blog.

If you need more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 877.216.7676. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best. We aim to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.

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