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What Is the Best Treatment for Insomnia in Seniors?

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An older woman lying in bed with her eyes open because she is unable to fall asleep.

Sleep is the elixir of life. It nourishes our bodies, recharges our minds, and fuels our spirits. For those in their golden years, healthy sleep is not just about feeling energized each morning but is also a pivotal factor in maintaining overall well-being. 

Insomnia can be common among older adults, and unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all or best treatment for insomnia in seniors. The most effective treatment ultimately depends on the cause of insomnia.

A few things that may help seniors with insomnia are remaining active, following good sleep hygiene, and in some cases, medication. Insomnia isn’t something to take lightly and can be a sign of conditions that may require support through assisted living or memory care. An older adult should consult their loved ones, caregivers, and healthcare team to develop effective ways to get a good night’s rest.

Understanding Senior Insomnia

Insomnia in seniors is not merely a condition of difficulty sleeping but a complex web of factors that often include age-related changes, underlying health conditions, and a spectrum of medication side effects. 

Insomnia among seniors is typically characterized by:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up frequently during the night
  • Waking up early with an inability to fall back asleep

Disturbed sleep can also cause daytime fatigue, irritability, and diminished cognitive function, which when chronic, can result in a cascade of health issues.

Causes of Senior Insomnia

There isn’t one thing that causes insomnia, so an accurate diagnosis of the cause is crucial for knowing how to treat it. Common causes of insomnia include:

  • Certain medical conditions, like heart failure or arthritis
  • Psychological issues, such as depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Medication side effects
  • Brain or nervous system conditions
  • Stimulants, like nicotine or caffeine
  • Diet and lifestyle factors

Non-Medication Insomnia Solutions

The first step in treating insomnia is often to look for solutions that don’t involve the use of medication, such as making changes to your sleep schedule or trying different forms of cognitive therapy. 

Sleep Hygiene

Adapting your bedtime ritual—which is sometimes called sleep hygiene—can be revolutionary for your sleep. Simple changes, such as avoiding heavy meals before bed, setting a relaxing pre-sleep routine, and ensuring the bedroom is a peaceful sanctuary, can help increase sleep quality.

You should consider things like temperature too—make sure the room is not too warm or too cold. Keeping the bed solely for sleeping and not watching TV or using a computer may also be helpful. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

CBT-I can be helpful for reconfiguring thought patterns and behaviors that impede sleep. Tailored CBT-I programs are proving to be powerful allies in struggles against nighttime wakefulness, with 70–80% of individuals seeing improvements in their sleep. 

Bright Light Therapy

Bright light therapy is a form of light therapy that uses artificial lights to mimic sunlight. If a person is falling asleep and waking up too early, that could be because of disruptions in their natural circadian rhythm. Bright light therapy could help balance their sleep schedule.

Medication Insomnia Solutions

In some cases, medication may be the right route for a full night of sleep for many seniors, especially if non-medication solutions haven’t produced results. You should talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about which sleep medications they might recommend for yourself or your loved one. 

Not all sleep medications are created equal. Commonly prescribed sedatives each bring their own benefit-risk profile that must be carefully weighed by healthcare providers and their patients—especially when patients are taking other medications.

Lifestyle Changes for Better Sleep

Sometimes, certain lifestyle adjustments can help improve the quality of your sleep. As with the other options mentioned above, it’s important to speak with your doctor before making any big changes to your lifestyle.

Exercise Regimens Revisited

Engaging in regular physical activity can set the stage for a night of undisturbed sleep when timed right. The timing ultimately depends on the exercises and the individual, but in general, you should avoid exercising 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed.


A senior’s nutrition is a modifiable lifestyle factor that may improve sleep quality. An older adult should avoid large meals before bed, but sometimes a light snack can help with sleep. We’ve all heard of drinking a glass of warm milk, and it turns out that there is some truth to that too. Warm milk can help with sleep because of the sedative-like amino acid it contains.

A group of older adults smiling and exercising together.

Senior Insomnia Care

Seniors’ golden years are deservedly those of peace, exploration, and unbridling new passions. But action is necessary when life’s joy is blocked by a restless quest for sleep.

Having a support network when issues like insomnia arise is critical, and that’s a significant benefit of being a part of a senior living community. 

Contact our team at The Legacy at Cimarron today. We’re happy to show you how our caregivers can provide support that benefits you and your family’s quality of life—and sleep.

Written by LifeWell

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