Sleep and Aging: What are the Common Sleeping Disorders in the Elderly?

sleeping disorder treatment Singapore

As we age, our sleep patterns tend to change, and many older adults experience sleep-related issues that can impact their quality of life. Commonly referred to as “sleep disorders,” these conditions can lead to various health problems and a reduced sense of well-being. In this blog, we’ll explore the challenges that the elderly face when it comes to sleep and delve into some of the most prevalent sleeping disorders in this age group. We’ll also discuss potential causes and sleeping disorder treatment in Singapore, and elsewhere, emphasizing the importance of addressing these issues to promote healthy aging.

Sleep Changes in the Elderly

Aging often brings about changes in sleep patterns, such as:

  • Fragmented Sleep: Seniors may experience more fragmented sleep with frequent awakenings during the night.
  • Early Bedtimes: Many older adults go to bed and wake up earlier than they did when they were younger.
  • Reduced Deep Sleep: Slow-wave or deep sleep stages may decrease with age, leading to lighter and less restorative sleep.

Common Sleeping Disorders in the Elderly

  • Insomnia: Insomnia is a widespread sleep disorder among the elderly. It involves difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep. Causes may include medical conditions, medications, and lifestyle changes.
  • Sleep Apnea: Older adults are also at risk for sleep apnea, which is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea can lead to fragmented sleep and increased daytime fatigue.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): RLS causes an irresistible urge to move the legs, often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. It can lead to frequent leg movements during sleep, resulting in sleep disruption.
  • Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD): PLMD involves repetitive leg movements during sleep, which can cause awakenings and sleep fragmentation.
  • Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders: Changes in circadian rhythms can lead to issues like advanced sleep phase syndrome, where individuals become extremely sleepy in the early evening and wake up very early in the morning.

Causes of Sleeping Disorders in Older Adults

Several factors contribute to sleeping disorders in the elderly:

  • Medical Conditions: Chronic health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease can impact sleep quality.
  • Medications: Some medications may have sleep-disrupting side effects, such as diuretics, antidepressants, and corticosteroids.
  • Psychological Factors: Stress, anxiety, and depression can contribute to sleeping disorders.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Retirement, changes in daily routines, and reduced physical activity can affect sleep patterns.

Treatment and Management

The good news is that many sleeping disorders in the elderly are treatable. Here are some approaches to improve sleep quality:

  • Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can be highly effective in addressing insomnia.
  • Medication Management: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help with sleep disorders, but this should be done under a doctor’s supervision.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Encouraging regular exercise, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and creating a comfortable sleep environment can make a significant difference.
  • Treating Underlying Conditions: Managing chronic health conditions and addressing mental health concerns is crucial for improving sleep.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): For sleep apnea, the use of a CPAP machine can be a game-changer.


Sleep is a vital component of overall health and well-being, and as we age, maintaining healthy sleep patterns becomes increasingly important. By understanding the common sleeping disorders that affect the elderly and addressing their underlying causes, individuals can take steps to improve their sleep quality and, in turn, enhance their overall quality of life. If you or a loved one is experiencing sleep disturbances, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate sleeping disorder treatment in Singapore, and also management strategies.


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