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Link Found Between Pain and Sleep in Older Adults

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Link Found Between Pain and Sleep in Older Adults
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Link Found Between Pain and Sleep in Older Adults

March 21, 2014

Medical experts have long recognized the importance of sleep in contributing to a person’s overall well-being. Failing to get enough down time can put stress on an individual’s physical as well as mental and emotional health, and new studies work to pinpoint some of the exact side effects of experiencing too little or poor quality sleep. Seniors in particular face issues with restlessness, and could benefit from taking efforts to improve their quality of sleep.


older male sleeping
Sleep important in avoiding pain

According to researchers at Keele University in Staffordshire, England, people who don’t get enough sleep may experience a higher degree of pain than those who rest the recommended number of hours per night. The study included data from more than 4,300 adults who were older than 50 years of age. Approximately 2,700 of them reported feeling some pain before the start of the three-year experiment.

According to the scientists, as age increased, so did the likelihood of a senior citizen experiencing pain, and the sensation typically increased among people who already had physical discomfort going into the study. In looking at other symptoms correlated with pain increase, researchers noted a rise in physical complications such as arthritis, as well as memory issues and anxiety. Patients who said they got less sleep were also more likely to develop or experience higher pain levels than those who rested more hours per day.

“While osteoarthritis is linked to new onset of widespread pain, our findings also found that poor sleep, [memory], and physical and psychological health may increase pain risk,” said Dr. John McBeth, the study’s leader, in a statement.

Responding to pain
The Mayo Clinic advises that the average adult sleep for approximately eight hours per day, although some individuals may need more or less rest depending on both genetic factors and health concerns. Because physical and mental complications become more frequent as a person ages, seniors may be particularly prone to developing pain, even if they rest well at night. McBeth suggested that people take a multifaceted approach in responding to physical complaints that addresses a number of possible instigators.

“Combined interventions that treat both site-specific and widespread pain are needed for older adults,” McBeth said in the press release.

People who feel pain in specific areas of the body may benefit from participating in physical therapy that targets certain joints or muscles. They may also look for natural ways to improve the amount or quality of sleep they receive each night.

Increasing and enhancing sleep
Seniors who have trouble with pain may consider taking measures to ensure that they get enough hours of quality sleep per night. Efforts to fall asleep could include listening to soothing music or purchasing a white noise machine, and monitoring conditions such as lighting and temperature in the room.

Seniors may also want to pay attention to minimizing behaviors that could prevent them from feeling drowsy before going to bed. For instance, drinking alcohol or caffeine later in the day, or exercising close to bedtime could make it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, participate in light activity during later hours and consume non-caffeinated beverages as evening approaches. Meditation or reading can also help calm the body and prepare for rest.

Other factors that can affect quality of sleep include medications, diet and medical conditions. Speak with a doctor if you have concerns, as he or she may be able to suggest methods specific to your needs that can help you enjoy longer, more peaceful sleep.

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