Are you cheating yourself of sleep?
- Health & Wellbeing
- From the archives
We all know that sleep patterns can change with age. Quality and quantity of sleep can sometimes deteriorate and studies are now pointing toward this having adverse health impacts.
Perhaps the importance of good sleeping patterns has been downplayed in our modern culture, but the potential health benefits make it worthwhile to identify ways you can improve this vital ‘biological downtime’.
Poor sleep linked to cognitive function
Studies have pointed toward a link between poor sleep and cognitive performance. A University of Oregon-led study examined around 30,000 adults over age 50 in six nations. Their findings were a real eye-opener (pardon the pun) with suggestions that both lack of sleep and too much sleep can both have adverse effects. Tests revealed that those with less than six hours, and more than nine hours sleep, revealed that cognitive functions such as memory, recall, and verbal fluency had reduced performance.
Another study even pointed toward poor sleep creating brain imaging patterns akin to someone with Alzheimer's. While much more research needs to be done to give conclusive proof, the indications are that it is worth taking a closer look at your sleep in order to be at your best later in life. Read more tips on improving your brain health.
What can you do about it?
Many over 50s report an increase in interruptions during sleep and this can mean a loss of the valuable periods of deep sleep, where the body and mind achieve the greatest restorative benefits. The objective, therefore, is to work on techniques to reduce broken sleep patterns.
People over 50 tend to wake up more during the evening
Re-set your body clock (and nap less)
The occasional nap during the day may well boost your daytime stamina and may be something you increasingly look forward to, but if it is affecting the quality of night time sleeping then it is best to limit naps to no more than 30 minutes. It also helps to get your biological clock into a rhythm by having set times for when you go to bed and when you wake up, and maintaining a regular pattern.
Exercise is important too for burning off energy and encouraging your body to get some solid rest. Aim for at least 30 minute sessions at least three days a week. It doesn’t need to be intense; even a brisk walk will create the desired effect, but make sure you don’t do it too close to bedtime.
An added benefit of doing something active outdoors is the fresh air and daylight that you are exposed to, which can improve sleep too. There are plenty of simple ways to make fitness fun.
Think about what you are consuming (and when)
Drugs and stimulants need to be controlled, so watch the timing of any caffeine, chocolate and sugar intake, and check your medications to see if they are causing sleeplessness if taken too late in the day. Dietary patterns can aid sleep too. Reduce alcohol and other liquids close to bedtime and don’t go to sleep either too full or too hungry.
Good deep sleep can be an integral part of better health management, so assess the above issues in your daily routine and gain greater benefits from a quality night's rest.
What is your best tip to get a better night's sleep? Let us know below.