Common Reasons for Daytime Sleepiness in Elderly People

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Reasons for Daytime Sleepiness in Elderly People in Winnipeg, MB

It’s common for aging adults to wake up frequently throughout the night and sleep more during the day. However, these patterns can have negative effects on their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Here are a few causes of senior fatigue and how to address them. 

Nighttime Awakenings

In seniors, slumber is often fragmented, thwarted by achy joints, street noise, or nudges from their bladders. Sunlight peeking through the curtains can rouse them too early. Some seniors awaken when their core temperature drops, making them cold. All these factors contribute to insufficient rest. To compensate, your loved one may snooze during the day. However, you can promote good sleep by ensuring your loved one’s comfort. First, avoid giving beverages within three hours of bedtime. Before your loved one turns in, encourage him or her to use the bathroom, making nighttime trips less likely. A supportive mattress and pillow can prevent joint pressure and pain. If your loved one is thin or frail, provide extra blankets to keep chills at bay. Machines that generate “white noise” can mask disruptive sounds. If the morning sun awakens your loved one, cover the bedroom windows with blackout curtains.

Low Melatonin Levels

With age, the brain produces less melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. There are two ways to raise melatonin levels. One is by eating foods containing this hormone. Good options are eggs, milk, tart cherries, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios. If your loved one has a meager appetite, consider giving a melatonin supplement, provided his or her doctor approves. Melatonin in pill form can interfere with some medications. If the doctor approves, ask him or her to recommend the appropriate dosage for your loved one. Sleep experts recommend 0.5 to 3 grams.  If your loved one is excessively tired or sleepy during the day, he or she may need assistance with the tasks of everyday living. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of senior care. You can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide an individualized care plan to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia.


Depression often has an emotional cause. Perhaps your loved one is distraught by the limitations of waning health and reduced mobility. Maybe he or she is mourning the passing of friends, family members, or a cherished pet. If your loved one had a fallout with someone close, he or she could regret the rift. Deep sorrow can stem from traumatic lifestyle changes. An example is selling one’s home and moving to an apartment. If your loved one retired recently, he or she might miss the former sense of purpose, coworkers, or higher income. Depression can also have physical roots. For instance, a senior might have an imbalance of brain chemicals. If your loved one lives with chronic pain, he or she may have no hope of feeling better. Certain medications can also trigger downcast moods. Among them are drugs that treat pain, seizures, anxiety, and insomnia. If possible, talk to your loved one about what’s troubling him or her. If that doesn’t provide insight, make an appointment with his or her primary care physician, who can determine whether the depression has a physical cause. If your loved one can exercise, encourage him or her to engage daily in activities he or she enjoys. Studies show physical activity promotes a brighter outlook. If you’re uncertain about the safety of certain types of exercise for your loved one, ask the doctor for guidance. Gloomy feelings can also fade with the help of support groups and psychotherapy. Other means of relief include professional pain management, medication, and dietary changes.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

This sleep disorder causes people to shift their legs throughout the night. The movement calms nagging sensations in the legs, such as pulling, tingling, aching, and itching. Doctors aren’t certain what causes restless legs syndrome, but deficiencies in iron and vitamin D appear to be related to RLS. Blood tests can reveal these nutritional shortfalls, which can be resolved with dietary changes and supplements. Studies show RLS can also be relieved by mild exercise, stretching, massage, and warm baths before bed.

Sleep Apnea

With this condition, a person’s breathing momentarily stops throughout sleep cycles. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form, and it’s triggered by the relaxation of the tongue muscles, causing the throat to close and block a person’s airflow. Sleep apnea keeps a person from entering the REM cycle, the restorative stage of sleep. Signs of airway obstruction are gasping for breath and loud snoring. Upon awakening, the person may have a sore throat and headache. Understandably, the individual is also exhausted, and the fatigue persists throughout the day. A sleep laboratory can diagnose this disorder by monitoring a person’s sleep patterns. Thankfully, sleep apnea can be controlled by using a CPAP device. This appliance ensures an open airway by supporting steady breathing.

Medication Side Effects

Drowsiness can result from certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs. These include medicines used to treat: 
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Severe pain
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Allergies
  • Nasal congestion
  • Anxiety
  • Epilepsy
  • Depression
If you think specific drugs might account for your loved one’s lethargy, speak with his or her physician. Perhaps the doctor can lower the dosage or prescribe a different drug. Sometimes changing the dosing schedule can boost a senior’s wakefulness. Your loved one shouldn’t stop taking any medicine without approval from his or her physician.


In aging adults with dementia, brain deterioration can affect their sleep. As brain cells decrease, a person’s body clock and time awareness are affected. Sleep deprivation can also worsen agitation and confusion, which are common symptoms of dementia.  Experts in dementia advise scheduling engaging activities for seniors with the condition. Also, incorporate naps and keep to a bedtime routine. Such habits can ground and orient your loved one. As mentioned, certain medications may cause daytime drowsiness. If you suspect this possibility, consult your loved one’s doctor. During the late stages of dementia, seniors may spend most of their time sleeping. In that case, the best you can do is keep your loved one comfortable. Caring for a senior with dementia can be challenging for family caregivers. Luckily, there is dementia care Winnipeg families can rely on. Professional dementia caregivers help seniors with dementia stay safe and comfortable at home by preventing wandering, providing cognitive stimulation, and assisting with household chores. 


If life is tedious and dull for your loved one, he or she may want to sleep all day. Inspire your loved one to stay awake by rekindling his or her interest in things he or she once enjoyed. If this is no longer possible, choose other purposeful activities. As your loved one completes projects and reaches goals, he or she will feel deep satisfaction. In turn, the accomplishments will fuel the desire to do more, establishing momentum. Another benefit is greater self-esteem. Creative pursuits are especially fun. Your loved one may delight in making bracelets, necklaces, or scrapbooks. Some seniors find cooking and baking exciting. They might even offer their creations as gifts. Adopting a pet can fill your loved one’s life with smiles and laughter. Socialization, including by phone and Zoom, is also essential for seniors, and volunteering can be rewarding. Examples of facilities that need volunteers are houses of worship, libraries, and animal shelters.

Energizing Tips

Here are a few ways to prevent daytime fatigue:
  • If your parent drink caffeinated coffee, soda, or tea, the last cup should be eight hours before bedtime. Alcoholic beverages also inhibit restful sleep.
  • A diet high in sugary, fatty, and fried foods is draining. Instead, offer healthy snacks and meals that are equally tasty.
  • Two hours before bedtime, turn off electronic devices. The blue light they emit can disrupt your loved one’s body clock and sleep cycles.
There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional elderly home care. Winnipeg families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place. Home Care Assistance will work with you to customize a care plan that’s just right for your loved one’s needs. Call one of our friendly Care Managers today at (204) 489-6000 to learn more about our customized care plans.

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