In case you didn't realize it, getting older can be a complicated process for you and your physiology. It’s also known to cause havoc on your sleep cycles from time to time, depending on who you are and what your age is.
That’s why it’s extra important for seniors to get a decent amount of sleep each night. Sleep can help preserve neural processes of the elderly and stabilize certain mental processes that other younger folks may take for granted.
So why is sleep vital for seniors, and how does it help their brain chemistry in a major way?
After taking a closer look into the matter, we’ve listed a couple reasons why sleep is so important to the brain health of seniors everywhere - and tips on how they can get more of it. Read on!
It helps their memories.
A recent study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, by the National Institute of Aging of the National Institutes of Health, found a correlation between inadequate sleep and the overall loss of memory.
Joe Winer, one of the researchers involved in the study states:
“We know older people get generally less sleep. It’s not that they need less sleep but that older people’s brains have changed so they cannot generate as much sleep as younger people,”
This inability to sleep as well means a reduction of the amount of time seniors spend in what is known as ‘slow wave’ sleep. This is a period of deep rejuvenating sleep that generally takes place later in the sleep cycle.
Slow wave sleep is an important time for what is known as the ‘consolidation’ of memories. This is when the brain selects which events from the day are to be recorded for posterity and which are to deemed unimportant and can be culled. Think of it as depositing money in the bank, where it’s less likely to be lost.
The more deep wave sleep the more effective the process. If you don’t get enough sleep at night, this precious transfer of brain data is disrupted. Researchers discovered that these inconsistent sleep habits are what contribute to forgetfulness and memory loss in elders.
If you’re a senior, try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night and be sure to take plenty of naps when you can.
It helps to prevent other kinds of diseases.
Heart disease, Parkinson's, hypertension, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders…
These and many other conditions threaten to diminish the quality of seniors’ lives as they grow older - and if they aren’t getting the proper sleep they need, these ailments may be twice as likely to occur than not. Lack of sleep even raises the risk of falls.
Is that a risk you’re willing to take?
If you’re a senior who suffers from a sleep disorder like insomnia or sleep apnea, seek out treatment like devices or supplements that can help you get the rest your body needs to combat illnesses that could impair the way you live your life.
Inadequate sleep is known to be the cause of confusion, memory distortion, and chronic depression in seniors.
Their ability to react to stress is also impaired, which increases the likelihood of developing mental illnesses in general.
This can help determine the degree of dementia and paranoia an elderly person might have if they already are diagnosed with a pre-existing condition.
Lack of sufficient sleep also takes its toll on seniors, physically speaking. Decreased muscle strength and endurance, damage to the vital organs, increased sensitivity to pain, complications with insulin production and sugar metabolism are all side effects of sleep deprivation in seniors.
Their risk of diabetes is also increased and their immune systems are weakened, which negatively impacts their defenses against illness.
How can they sleep better?
So how can seniors get better quality sleep, anyway?
First of all, it’s best to develop and stick to a consistent sleep schedule. It’s best to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day. This includes the weekend and whenever they go on vacation.
Second of all, we mentioned before that taking naps helps - naps during the late afternoon or evening time tend to disrupt a regularly scheduled bedtime at night.
Thirdly, keeping the room looking like a deep, dark sleep sanctuary helps, too. No TV, mobile phone, tablet, or computer use. Just sleep.
It’s also helpful to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evenings as well, as these can be responsible for keeping anyone up at night, regardless of their age.
Lastly, being selective about what kind of foods you eat at night and when you eat them also greatly contributes to the amount of quality sleep anyone can get.
It’s best not to eat 2-3 hours before going to bed, and not eat spicy foods or anything that may trigger GERD, heartburn, or acid reflux which is known to keep many people awake in the late hours of the night.
We hope this list has been informative and helpful to seniors and their relatives or caregivers that are out there looking for guidance in getting a good night’s rest.
Taking care of yourself and others is a big part of any stage of life - so let’s all work on the quality of our sleep together! We’re going to kick things off by taking a power nap.
~ Sarah Cummings
by Sarah Cummings - Guest Post -