Older people do not sleep as well as younger people do. The elderly may spend more time in bed, but less of that time is actually spent sleeping. They fall asleep in about the same amount of time, but they wake up more frequently. They also spend less time in the phase of sleep that is thought to be important to recovering from fatigue.
Many seniors try using over-the-counter sleeping pills. Unfortunately, many of these medications have harmful side effects. Most belong to a class of medication called antihistamines, like diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Antihistamines are also used to treat allergies. One of the major side effects of antihistamines is sedation. Drug companies take advantage of this side effect and promote antihistamines as sleep aids.
Besides drowsiness, antihistamines can cause dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention (inability to urinate), and confusion. Antihistamines have also been linked to falling among elderly people.
Another way to deal with sleeping problems just involves changing your sleeping habits. You should avoid all drinks that have caffeine in them and try to limit amount of fluids you drink 3-4 hours before your bedtime. You should use your bed for sleeping only: Never read or watch television in bed. Also try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
If these changes don’t improve your sleep, speak to your doctor. Some prescription sleeping pills are actually safer for seniors than over-the-counter sleep aids are.