The elderly population has been increasing over the past decade and now with the baby boomers entering into this population it only applies more pressure to an ever increasing dilemma on how to improve their health. Sleep is essential to a person’s well being and cognitive function. Research studies have shown that there is significant decline in a person’s cognitive function when they do not receive an adequate night’s sleep. The secret to aging healthfully is getting enough sleep to allow the body to heal and rejuvenate from the day’s experiences and traumas. This paper is a review of the literature in response to sleep and its effects on cognitive function in the elderly population with a brief discussion on nursing implications.
Sleep is defined according to Bombois et al, 2010 as a “psychological process characterized by several cycles of different sleep states within a twenty-four hour period.”( Bombois et al, 2010) The article describes that people with these disturbances are at an increase risk for “mortality, cardiovascular changes and neurobehavioral co-morbities as well.” This article describes dementia patients and also lists the different reasons elderly people may have that cause sleep disturbances.
The cyclical process of sleep is moving through four phases, according to Hall, 1998 Rapid Eye Movement (REM) being the most important of these. A person enters REM sleep every ninety to one hundred twenty minutes in their sleeping cycle depending on what article one may read. REM is where the brain processes the day’s events and the body heals. Interestingly this is also where the skeletal muscles of the body become paralyzed and the only functioning muscle is the pharyngeal ones holding the airway open. “A person moves through all four stages but as the sleep cycle comes to an end the person does not return to REM sleep after the third or fourth cycle.” (Hall, 1998)
The article healthy brain aging: what has sleep got to do with it, discusses that the brain requires a person to sleep on average of eight hours per night. Without this amount of sleep the brain is unable to process the day’s events, learn new things and memory becomes impaired. The longer the sleep deprivation continues the more damage occurs to the brain. Increasing the risk of dementia and leading to psychiatric issues such as mood disorders and depression. (Malhotra & Desai, 2010, pp. 45-56)
Sleep becomes an important part in healthful aging. There are several articles relating to impaired sleep wake cycles and the effects it has on aging. These cognitive changes in the brain make it difficult for an elderly person to perform activities of daily living. Such as going to the grocery store or even balancing a check book. Cognitive changes within the brain can have a serious impact on a person such as increasing the rate of dementia.
Robothman a researcher at the mental health foundation in London, did a review on insomnia and mental health, here he describes...