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Senior Connection 7-31-10

If the person in your care is having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, one possible explanation could be chronic pain. More than 50 percent of older Americans experience some form of chronic pain, impacting the quality of their sleep. The following are tips to help address chronic pain/sleep loss concerns:

The quality of sleep is more important than the quantity. Even if the person in your care is spending 6 hours in bed, they may still not be getting the necessary rest. Additionally, chronic pain may cause them to be restless and may contribute to wandering activities.

Inspect their mattress. A worn mattress may be contributed to neck or back pain. Also, as our bodies' age, our mattress preferences change. A softer type of mattress that was preferred years ago may no longer fit with the care receiver's needs.

Take a look at their lifestyle. Do they practice healthy habits? Do they eat nutritious foods and exercise regularly? Caregivers may want to speak with their loved one's health care professional about incorporating exercising and stretching into the daily routine. Appropriate exercise can have many benefits, including alleviating pain and improving sleep.

Examine their medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. Some pain medications can disrupt sleeping patterns or cause insomnia.

Monitor or discontinue caffeine intake. This may take a few days to get used to but will greatly benefit quality of sleep. The same can be said of alcohol. Some folks think alcohol helps them sleep, but the opposite is true- alcohol can effect sleep cycles and prevent deep, restful sleep.

Cut back on daily naps, if they seem to be affecting nighttime sleep habits.

Discuss any sleep and chronic pain problems with the care receiver's heath care professional.

The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.

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