The Importance of Sleep + 11 Sleep Tips

 

Sleep is so important for everyone…

 

And for seniors it’s recommended that a healthy adult should shoot for 7-9 hours of rest per night.

 

As your body gets older it becomes more susceptible to disease and it’s also at a higher risk for injury. Your body needs adequate time to rest and recover and sleep prevents unnecessary accidents…

 

And… at the same time, sleep also works with your immune system to repair any damage and it helps fight dementia. When you get a good night’s rest, you can better focus on your memory care, making your brain stronger to fight against cognitive impairment.

 

According to HelpGuide.org testing sleep is like taking your temperature. Physicians can use it as an indicator to explain why certain people may feel depressed or anxious or drowsy during the day. One study by Dr. Daniel Chapman and his colleagues found that if you frequently experience insufficient amounts of sleep, it’s linked to a much higher likelihood of having anxiety or depression or both.

 

You need to catch these problems early because they increase your potential for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, weight issues and even breast cancer in female seniors.

 

Sleep is also closely tied to your heart health. There was one study by Christopher King and team, where they followed 495 health people and measured their sleep using wrist devices. What they found out is that people who sleep more are less likely to develop significant calcification of their coronary arteries.

 

And what researchers believe could explain the relationship between chronic sleep deprivation and cardiovascular disease is that reduced sleep leads to elevated blood markers related to inflammation.

 

Poor sleep fuels fatigue, and fatigue fuels inflammation

 

Sleep deprivation has been linked to a decreased production of antibodies, which in one interesting study found that people who slept less were almost three times more likely to develop a cold.

 

Lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to colds

 

And also lack of sleep has been found to be associated with obesity and a risk for diabetes. Another study out of the University of Chicago discovered that men who were sleep deprived experienced hormonal changes associated with their appetite.

 

Sleep deprivation can put you at a higher risk for obesity and diabetes.

 

So some interesting studies about the importance of sleep and the impact sleep deprivation can have on your body. If you’re someone who has trouble falling catching your z’s at night, here are 11 tips for you to consider:

 

11 Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Rest

 

Sleep Tip #1: Sync up your circadian rhythm with bright daylight

Your body has a natural clock that keep track of your daily cycles and natural and bright light during the day impacts this rhythmic flow. Increase your exposure to bright light during the day. This sends a trigger to your brain, body and hormones to stay awake during the appropriate daylight hours. In one study of insomnia patients, bright exposure during the daytime not only improved the quality and length of their sleep, but it also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83%.

In another study, specifically among a group of elderly and nursing home patients, researchers discovered that 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day increased sleep duration by 2 hours and sleep efficiency by a whopping 80%.

 

Sleep Tip #2: Decrease your exposure to blue light in the evening

Just like you send “stay awake” messages to your brain with bright lights during the day, you need to do the opposite at night and reduce your exposure to light at night. And blue light – emitted from your digital devices and screens – is the worst when it comes to tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.

 

This can reduce important sleep hormones like melatonin, making it more difficult for you to relax and enter deep slumber. So if you’re someone who likes to watch TV before bed, you might want to try turning off your tube (and any bright lights) at least 2 hours before hitting the sack.

 

Sleep Tip #3: Be consistent with your sleep and wake times

Another signal that you can send to your body to help keep your circadian rhythm regular and flowing nicely, is to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This can really impact the quality of your sleep in the long-term. Researchers have found that irregular sleep patterns can mess with not only your circadian rhythm but also your melatonin levels.

 

Sleep Tip #4: Stop your liquids 1-2 hours before bedtime

If you stop drinking a couple hours before bed, that’ll decrease your need to get up for restroom breaks in the middle of the night. That also includes alcohol. Even though your “nightcap” can make you feel drowsy right away, it can disrupt your sleep later on, in the middle of the night.

 

Sleep Tip #5: Don’t eat too late in the evening

Try to find that happy medium of not being too starved or stuffed right before bed. You can aim to avoid heavy or big meals 2+ hours before bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine can impose stimulating effects that can take several hours to wear off, so be wary of that.

Also, late-night eating can have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep, as well as the natural release of growth hormone and melatonin.

Carbs also play a role in your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep. It can go in either direction, so it’s just something to pay attention to:

  • High-carb – One study reported a high-carb meal eaten 4 hours before snoozing helped people fall asleep more quickly.
  • Low-carb – Yet, in another study, researchers found that a low-carb diet improved sleep, so if you’re training your body to acclimate to a low-carb diet, it might be beneficial to stick it out.  

 

Sleep Tip #6: Don’t nap too late in the afternoon

Sure, naps are great and if you can afford the time for a quick day rest to quickly rejuvenate, even better. It’s recommended to limit your naps to about 30 minutes and to avoid taking them late in the day. Lengthy daytime naps can interfere with your night slumber.

 

Sleep Tip #7: Exercise regularly

Physical exercise is so good for your overall health and well-being and can also benefit your sleep quality. Check out these studies:

Researchers found in one study of the elderly, that people who exercise can sleep 41 minutes longer at night and take half the amount of time to fall asleep.

More researchers studied insomnia patients and found in another study that exercise decreased the amount of time to fall asleep by 55%, reduced total awake time at night by 30%, and increased total sleep time at night by 18%. It even found that insomnia patients who exercised experienced 15% reduced anxiety.

 

Sleep Tip #8: Optimize your bed comfort

Your mattress actually matters… and a decent pillow situation to go with it. Not only do you want to avoid agitating your bad back pains or worsening your body stiffness but you also want to avoid ruining your sleep quality with a poor bed and pillow setup.

One study found that a new mattress can improve your sleep quality by 60%. The study also found the new mattress reduced back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60% and back stiffness by 59%.

It might be worth the cost to upgrade your bed at least every decade. The National Sleep Foundation recommends replacing your mattress every 5-10 years and your pillows every year.

 

Sleep Tip #9: Cozy up your bedroom

This can mean a ton of things, but basically make your bedroom a super relaxing sanctuary where you feel very comfortable and relaxed. A couple ideas are:

  • Adjust your room temperature and find that Goldilocks perfect amount of degrees.
  • Remove the glaring alarm clock if you’re someone who wakes and constantly looks at the time. This can make insomnia matters worse, where your mind starts to race about how much sleep you’re missing out on… the opposite of what you’re going for with trying to relax and destress.
  • Remove the TV and avoid that blue light right before bed. Rather than fill your head with a bunch of mindless noise or potentially worrisome news, try clearing your head instead.

 

Sleep Tip #10: Take a hot bath

Taking a hot bath can trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, which is your “rest and digest” system where your body conserves energy and slows your heart rate. Entering a calm and relaxed state before bedtime will help you ease into dreamland.

This is especially important among seniors. There are numerous studies that tell us a relaxing bath or shower can help you fall asleep sooner and improve the quality of your sleep.

Another study found that taking a hot bath 90 minutes before bedtime improved the quality of sleep and increased the amount of deep sleep.

 

Sleep Tip #11: Practice mindfulness and clear your mind

There’s nothing worse than a mind full of stress to keep you up at night. Try really hard to be intentional about clearing your mind before bed. Whether it’s journaling, meditating, doing breathing exercises or even some yoga moves, practicing mindfulness can help you ground yourself in a good night’s rest. Mindfulness is something so unique to you and what makes you tick, so try out several ideas until something really resonates.  

 

Make it a priority this week to get a good night’s rest, which is at least 7-9 hours of sleep, and pay attention to how rested you feel the next morning. How does it impact your clear-headedness and energy level throughout the day? What can you do to make this a habit?

 

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