July 14, 2005

Poor Sleep Not a Normal Part of Aging

Researchers outline five basic steps to help doctors identify and treat insomnia in elderly patients. This article is published in a special insomnia themed supplement of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers say insomnia is a common problem that warrants increased attention from doctors who care for older adults. The study presents a five-step approach to diagnose and manage insomnia in these patients. If followed, data shows that doctors could help to reduce sleep disturbances in the geriatric population.

The steps include (1) detection through asking patients questions, (2) elaboration of the problem, (3) determining if there is a medical or psychiatric emergency, (4) further evaluation of chronic insomnia, if present, and (5) intervention, which can include pharmacological treatment.

"The perception of sleeping poorly, coupled with daytime sequelae such as fatigue or irritability, is cause for seeking medical help," states W. Vaughn McCall, MD, MS, author of the article. "Failure to address insomnia could lead to bad outcomes, such as clinical depression. Insomnia can be cause by numerous factors, but can be treated successfully either through lifestyle and behavioral changes or through medications."

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