Sleep disturbances in bereaved older people: a review of the literature
evidence and practice    

Sleep disturbances in bereaved older people: a review of the literature

Cassandra Godzik Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging, Hanover, New Hampshire, US; and Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire, US

Why you should read this article:
  • To increase your understanding of the physical and mental health consequences of bereavement in old age

  • To learn about interventions that may improve sleep in older people before and after the death of a loved one

  • To gain awareness of the gaps in the literature on sleep disturbances in bereaved older people

Sleep disturbances are often seen in older people who have recently experienced the death of a loved one, such as a partner or spouse. Older family carers are particularly at risk of mood and sleep disturbances, not only after the death of the person they were caring for but also beforehand. Sleep disturbances can be treated with psychotropic medicines, but these are not adequate in older people because of the risk of falls, fractures and road accidents. Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia is a non-pharmacological intervention that has been found to be beneficial in bereaved older carers.

This article offers a systematic review of the literature on sleep disturbances in bereaved older people. One of the main findings is that sleep disturbances may begin before the loved one’s death, during the caregiving period. More research is needed on sleep disturbances in bereaved older people – notably in those aged ≥85 years, in partners or spouses from same-sex couples, into long-term symptoms post-bereavement, and into sleep interventions provided before the loved one’s death.

Mental Health Practice. doi: 10.7748/mhp.2020.e1492

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software

Correspondence

cassandra.m.godzik@hitchcock.org

Conflict of interest

None declared

Godzik C (2020) Sleep disturbances in bereaved older people: a review of the literature. Mental Health Practice. doi: 10.7748/mhp.2020.e1492

Published online: 06 October 2020

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