Sleep in older people

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Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common in older people, with up to 40% reporting some difficulty sleeping. Insomnia is a syndrome with multiple causes including medications, other illnesses and environmental factors. An accurate diagnosis is needed for effective management. Sleep disturbances are associated with functional and cognitive impairment and excess mortality. Management should initially be non-pharmacological including sleep hygiene education and behavioural therapy. Medications, including benzodiazepines (BZDs), are second-line with little evidence to support long-term usage. BZD usage in older people is associated with a range of disorders including falls, accidents and cognitive impairment. The management of insomnia in specific situations such as residential care, those with dementia and depressed older people can be challenging. Additional research is needed, particularly on the risks/benefit of long-term pharmacotherapy and to determine whether therapy reduces the consequences of sleep disturbances.

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