Are you familiar with the rock and roll song I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead? You can pick from the late rocker Warren Zevon’s version or the more recent track of the same name by Jon Bon Jovi.
There may be more to the concept than the lyrics to popular rock songs. It’s a pretty safe bet that among the caregivers for the elderly just about everyone has had a day when they wish the person they are caring for would sleep in for a few extra hours. When that happens all kinds of chores that were temporarily put on hold miraculously get finished.
If sleeping in is a once-in-a-while occurrence it probably should not be cause for alarm. But if sleeping in becomes a regular part of the daily routine a visit to the doctor could be in order.
I bring this up because I was doing some research on health issues affecting the elderly and I found a lot of information that says excessive sleeping in the daytime can be a harbinger of bad things happening internally. Research on the issue of excessive daytime sleeping among the elderly shows a correlation between excessive daytime sleep and cardiovascular disease among other issues.
Nonetheless, in addition to increased mortality rates, a study conducted by the University Hospital in Madrid a few years ago strongly suggests a link between excessive sleep and Alzheimer’s.
In that study the biggest increase in risk was found among those people who slept more than nine hours in a 24-hour period. While that study showed a correlation between excessive sleep and dementia, more studies must be completed to determine whether the additional sleep caused dementia or whether dementia already was present and the excess sleep was an early warning sign.
Researchers emphasize that changes in sleep patterns may be a normal part of aging and that many factors such as excessive stress, perhaps caused by the death of a loved one or other family issues, illness, and side effects from medications can disrupt normal sleep patterns.
Nonetheless, regardless of the cause, caregivers should be aware that disruptions in sleep patterns, especially those that lead to excessive daytime sleeping, are linked with premature death.
One of the major sleep issues the elderly face is a feeling of not being rested. In addition, many elderly people take longer to fall asleep than they did when younger or are more susceptible to nighttime noises.
Daytime napping is another cause of nighttime wakefulness. Older people are more likely to be sleepy during the day than younger people, but too much daytime sleep is not normal.
So, let’s review. It’s OK to take a nap during the day from time to time, but if it happens every day and goes on for hours, get checked. It’s OK to sleep in from time to time, especially on cold mornings, cloudy mornings, rainy mornings, Sunday mornings, holidays and mornings after a late card game, but it you sleep in EVERY morning and don’t get up until mid-afternoon, it probably is a good idea to get a medical checkup.
It may be nothing, but it may be that you have a health problem that can be addressed, leading to a longer and more productive life span.
As for me, I like the late Warren Zevon and Bon Jovi equally, but differently. Regarding the subject of this column, I’ll simply repeated Bon Jovi’s line for his version of the song that started this: Until I’m six feet under, baby I don’t need a bed, Gonna live while I’m alive, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
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