Elderly Sleep Disorders

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Charles Mok

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Causes, Impacts, and Treatments

Getting adequate, high-quality sleep is essential at any age. However, seniors face increased risks for various sleep disturbances that can significantly impair health and quality of life.

At Allure Medical, our experienced providers specialize in diagnosing and resolving sleep disorders in older adults. We offer a full range of testing and treatment options to help aging individuals sleep better and live healthier.

Common Sleep Disorders in the Elderly

Many factors can disrupt normal sleep-wake cycles in older populations. Some of the most frequent sleep disorders affecting seniors include:


Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, known as insomnia, becomes more prevalent with age. Up to 50% of older adults complain of insomnia symptoms. Contributing factors include pain, medications, inactivity, anxiety, depression, frequent nighttime urination, and medical conditions.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

OSA occurs when the upper airway collapses during sleep, causing impaired breathing. Snoring and gasping for air are common signs. While OSA can occur at any age, risk increases in older adults due to factors like weight gain and age-related anatomical changes.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

RLS leads to crawling, tingling, or painful sensations in the legs when lying down. This urges sufferers to constantly move their legs for relief. RLS affects around 20% of people over age 80 and often interferes with sleep initiation.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

This disorder involves acting out vivid dreams during REM sleep due to lack of normal muscle paralysis. It affects older individuals more frequently and can result in jerking movements and injuries during the night.

Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome

Common in seniors, this syndrome involves an abnormally early sleep-wake schedule. Individuals fall asleep very early in the evening, like 6-8 PM, then wake up extremely early, around 2-4 AM.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Involuntary leg twitching or jerking can occur periodically throughout sleep, fracturing rest. Periodic limb movements increase with age and contribute to insomnia and daytime fatigue in some seniors.

NightLase® – An Innovative Snoring and Sleep Apnea Solution

For patients looking to reduce loud snoring and improve obstructed breathing during sleep, Allure Medical offers the revolutionary NightLase therapy.

This innovative, non-invasive approach utilizes laser technology to tighten tissue, increase collagen, and open obstructed airways.

Why Choose NightLase?

  • Completely non-invasive with no surgery or anesthesia required
  • Highly effective at reducing snoring and improving sleep disordered breathing
  • Each session only takes 15-20 minutes
  • Requires no downtime – resume normal activities immediately
  • Provides lasting results for 9-12 months typically

This breakthrough therapy is ideal for those wanting a non-intrusive alternative to CPAP or oral devices. The treatment involves a small handheld device that delivers laser energy to oral tissue. This stimulates new collagen growth and shrinks enlarged tissue that contributes to airway obstruction and snoring.

Patients undergo a series of 3-5 brief treatment sessions spaced 1-2 weeks apart. Improvements in breathing and snoring levels are noticed quickly, with optimal results seen 1-2 months post-treatment.

If you or your loved one deal with bothersome nighttime snoring or have been diagnosed with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, NightLase therapy provides an exciting option to effectively and non-invasively address these issues.

Contact us today to learn more and see if you are a candidate. Sleep better tonight with NightLase.

Causes of Sleep Disorders in the Elderly

Aging itself changes sleep architecture and predisposes to certain disorders. However, various other factors also contribute to poor sleep in seniors:

  • Medical Conditions – Chronic diseases like COPD, heart failure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, arthritis, cancers, and kidney disease often impair sleep.
  • Medications – Diuretics, steroids, stimulants, beta-blockers, SSRIs, and many other drugs can lead to insomnia.
  • Mental Health Issues – Anxiety and depression frequently cause difficulty sleeping. Dementia can also significantly alter sleep patterns.
  • Pain – Back pain, osteoarthritis, neuropathies, injuries, and other sources of pain make it hard to fall and stay asleep.
  • Nocturia – Age-related changes and prostate issues prompt frequent nighttime urination that awakens sleepers.
  • Poor Sleep Hygiene – Irregular sleep schedules, late-night screen use, daytime napping, and uncomfortable sleep environments also contribute.
  • Neurodegeneration – The natural degradation of sleep-wake regulating brain areas occurs with aging.
  • Hormonal Changes – Declining melatonin and reproductive hormone levels with age alter circadian rhythms.

Consequences of Untreated Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders can significantly impair seniors’ wellbeing and daytime function. Potential effects include:

  • Cognitive dysfunction – Impaired memory, attention, reaction times
  • Falls and injuries – Unsteady gait and reduced coordination raise fall risk
  • Automobile accidents – Drowsy driving is a serious hazard
  • Caregiver stress – Disruptive sleep issues strain family members
  • Mood disorders – Increased anxiety, depression, irritability
  • Accelerated physical decline – Impacts mobility, vitality, independence
  • Dementia – Chronic sleep deprivation may increase risk
  • Cardiovascular disease – Linked to hypertension, stroke, heart attack
  • Metabolic disruption – Contributes to obesity, diabetes, dyslipidemia
  • Premature mortality – Severe sleep disorders like sleep apnea raise death risk

With so many potential adverse effects, it is critical that seniors’ sleep complaints be evaluated and addressed through proper diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosing Sleep Disorders in the Elderly

Given the wide range of potential causes for sleep disturbances in seniors, a comprehensive evaluation is warranted. In general, board-certified sleep medicine physicians conduct thorough diagnostic testing including:

  • Sleep studies (polysomnography or home sleep apnea testing) – Gold standard for assessing sleep quality, breathing, oxygen levels, movements
  • Physical exam – Evaluate for chronic conditions, neurocognitive status, medications
  • Questionnaires – Assess sleep complaints, habits, symptoms of medical and mood disorders
  • Actigraphy monitoring – Records sleep-wake activity patterns
  • Blood tests – Check for signs of infection, inflammation, hormone imbalance
  • Urine testing – Assess for urinary dysfunction contributing to nocturia
  • Imaging – Brain MRI detects neurodegenerative changes; cardiac imaging identifies heart disease

Based on a complete workup, they can pinpoint the factors contributing to your sleep problems and customize an effective treatment plan.

Treating Sleep Disorders in Older Adults

The right therapies for seniors’ sleep issues depend on the specific diagnoses made. At Allure Medical, we offer a full range of innovative, evidence-based treatment options including:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI)

Our psychologists provide CBTI to target anxiety, racing thoughts, and maladaptive sleep habits that perpetuate insomnia. This may include sleep restriction, stimulus control, relaxation strategies, cognitive restructuring, and sleep hygiene education.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

CPAP therapy is the gold standard for treating obstructive sleep apnea. This involves wearing a mask at night connected to a machine that delivers air pressure to keep airways open for normal breathing. If CPAP intolerance occurs, other options like oral appliances may be tried.

Phototherapy for Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Bright light therapy in the morning and avoidance of light exposure at night helps stabilize abnormal sleep-wake cycles. This is beneficial for advanced and delayed sleep phase syndromes.


When appropriate, we prescribe medications on a short-term basis to help consolidate sleep and regulate sleep-wake rhythms. Sleep aids, melatonin, sedatives, antidepressants, and Parkinson’s medications may be recommended in certain cases.

NightLase® for Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Our innovative NightLase therapy uses laser technology to tighten tissues of the upper airway, reducing snoring and improving sleep apnea non-invasively without surgery or CPAP.

Referrals for Specialized Care

We coordinate referrals to other specialists like cardiologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, or physical therapists to manage underlying medical conditions contributing to sleep disturbances. A customized, collaborative approach ensures the best possible outcomes.

Sleep Hygiene Tips for Seniors

In addition to medical therapies, adopting good sleep hygiene practices can help seniors optimize sleep quality and circadian rhythms:

  • Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule 7 days a week
  • Limit daytime napping to 30 minutes maximum
  • Avoid screens/TV for 1 hour before bedtime
  • Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine
  • Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet
  • Use comfortable mattresses, pillows, and bedding
  • Follow doctor recommendations for managing pain, urinary issues, mental health disorders
  • Have light-filled exposure in the mornings
  • Stay active during the day with regular exercise
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals before bedtime

Signs that Professional Sleep Help is Needed

Seniors and caregivers should consider seeking medical attention for sleep issues if the following are present:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep most nights
  • Frequent snoring, gasping, or breathing pauses during sleep
  • Excessive daytime fatigue or sleepiness that impairs function
  • Cognitive issues like memory lapses or mood changes
  • Sleeping far more than normal or unintentionally dozing off
  • Abnormal sleep-wake schedule (napping frequently or awakening too early)
  • Acting out dreams, jerking limbs, or wandering at night
  • Bed partner being kept awake or concerned about sleep behaviors

Our team is always available to provide compassionate guidance regarding your sleep health. Contact us today to determine if a sleep evaluation is warranted.

At Allure Medical, we understand the profound impact that healthy sleep has on overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Our providers are dedicated to diagnosing the root causes of sleep disturbances and crafting personalized treatment plans for aging individuals. Rest assured that effective solutions are available to help you sleep better and live more vibrantly.

Charles Mok

Dr. Charles Mok

About Charles Mok

Dr. Charles Mok received his medical degree from Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, Chicago, Illinois in 1989. He completed his medical residency at Mount Clemens General Hospital, Mt. Clemens, Michigan. He has worked with laser manufacturing companies to improve their technologies; he has performed clinical research studies and has taught physicians from numerous other states. His professionalism and personal attention to detail have contributed to the success of one of the first medical spas in Michigan.

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