As you get older, you may find yourself sleeping less or finding it more difficult to fall asleep. When this happens you, with your doctor, might decide you should start taking sleeping tablets, however sleeping tablets can cause dizziness, light headedness, confusion and poor concentration, all of which increase your risk of having a fall.
There are many benefits of not taking sleeping tablets, including improvement in memory, increased alertness and a reduced risk of falls.
How do sleeping tablets put me at risk of a fall?
Sleeping tablets cause side effects including drowsiness and psychomotor impairment, which means your body takes more time to process even simple thoughts and movements. This can make normal acts like getting in and out of bed, or going to the bathroom at night very risky.
Sleeping tablets put you at higher risk of falling, and the number of older Australians who are prescribed sleeping tablets is rising. Luckily, there are real alternatives to improve your sleep and reduce your risk of falls.
Practise sleep hygiene as a healthy alternative to sleeping tablets
Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe good sleep habits, which you can use to help you get a good night’s sleep. If you are taking sleeping tablets you should speak to your GP about a gradual sleeping tablet reduction plan. However, in the mean time, you can start some healthy habits such as:
Stay active during the day and avoid naps
Getting more active throughout the day can make a big difference to your sleep. By moving your body during the day, your muscles will need more time to recover – meaning you will have a restful and longer sleep at night. By avoiding the temptation of an afternoon nap, this too improves the depth of your sleep at night. By keeping your sleeping patterns regular, your body will follow a healthy pattern of wake and rest, reducing your need for sleeping aids.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes
Alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes impact systems in your body which are responsible for rest. Both caffeine and cigarettes disrupt sleeping patterns by speeding up your bodily processes, while caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol also dehydrate your body – leading to light or restless sleep.
Read before bed
Many people enjoy watching TV at night time, however the light from the screen impacts your sleep patterns as much as sunlight. Combat this by settling into bed with a good book for a while before bed. Both the rhythm of reading and the soft light will slowly work to put you to sleep.
It’s also a great idea to keep a sleep diary to keep a record of what sleep hygiene methods work best for you.
Get a medicine review
Free medicine checks are performed in a pharmacy and should include both prescription and non-prescription medications. You should speak to their GP about any suggested changes.
If you are using sleeping tablets or taking multiple medications speak to your GP about a referral for a free home medicine review, where a consultant pharmacist will visit your home to review your medicines, discuss concerns and write a report back to your GP.
Falls are preventable when you Check Your Medicines
The good news is falls are preventable, speak to your GP or Pharmacist if you experience side effects or are taking sleeping tablets.
Call 1300 30 35 40 and ask for your free Check Your Medicines information pack.