Elderly Caregivers of Alzheimer Patients and Sleep Disturbance

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Sleep Disturbance and Eldercare

The burden placed on an elderly caregiver whose spouse suffers from Alzheimer disease can often cause sleep disturbance, which can, in turn, lead to early physical signs of cardiovascular problems. This finding pinpoints further the detrimental effects a poor night of sleep can have on a person's well-being, and advises the elderly of the importance of sleep in maintaining their health.

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The study, conducted by Brent T. Mausbach, PhD, and colleagues of the University of California, San Diego, focused on 40 elderly spousal caregivers of patients with Alzheimer disease, who participated in an in-home full-night polysomnography and had other tests performed. The results indicated that wake after sleep onset (WASO) was positively associated with norepinephrine levels, indicating that caregivers with greater time spent awake during the night had elevated plasma norepinephrine concentrations. In addition, WASO was significantly related to plasma D-dimer.

Sleep needs change over a person's lifetime. Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults - seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Not sleeping well can lead to a number of problems. Older adults who have poor nighttime sleep are more likely to have, in addition to health problems, a depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls, and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. Poor sleep is also associated with a poorer quality of life.

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