AGE UK, a British charity, have released a report making a series of recommendations for healthcare providers in their approach to treating patients suffering from problems with their sleep.
The new report into sleep and brain health later in life recommends that professionals recognise sleep as essential a person’s wellbeing and to make sure adequate time is spent consulting with patients about their sleep patterns and similar concerns.
Other recommendations to healthcare providers include:
- Treat sleep disorders, when existing with other medical illnesses (including psychiatric disorders), simultaneously, not sequentially.
- Seek training on sleep disorders as well as normal changes to sleep over the lifespan that emphasizes faculty development, integrating sleep content into medical and health professions curricula, and providing continuing education on sleep to all primary care health professionals.
- Do not over-medicalise sleep problems. Behavioural and environmental interventions can often be more effective than prescription drugs for insomnia.
- Arrange shifts so that non-mobile residents in healthcare facilities are not left in their beds too long. Nursing facilities where residents are regularly expected to be in bed for >8–9 hours are not conducive to establishing sound sleep patterns.
The report was written by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), a group consisting of experts convened by Age UK and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). It highlights the challenges of sleeping well as people become older and offers guidance for addressing this issue. The report also recommends that people aged >50 should aim to get about 7–8 hours of sleep each night and get up at the same time every day. It also says that after lunchtime, caffeine should be avoided.
Other recommendations include:
- Expose yourself to light during the daytime.
- In the evening, restrict fluids and food 3 hours before going to bed.
- Avoid using over-the-counter medications for sleep as they can have negative side effects, particularly as we get older.
- At night, keep pets that disturb sleep out of the bedroom.
Prof James Goodwin, Chief Scientist at Age UK, commented: “Sleeping is something we all tend to take for granted, but we really have to wise up to the fact that getting the right amount of good sleep is crucial as we age, helping to protect us from all kinds of problems that can affect our brains as well as our bodies.”
Jack Redden, Reporter