Did you get a good night’s sleep last night? Research shows that nearly 60% of Elders did not. And while we often focus on diet and exercise when making healthier choices, we may be overlooking our sleeping habits. For Elders and caregivers alike, quality sleep is important for promoting overall wellbeing.
We all know the classic sign of a poor night’s sleep: feeling crabby the next day. But did you know that poor sleep can have many different negative effects on the mind and body.
For instance, were you aware that not getting enough sleep can increase the risk for developing a disease? Shocking but true: research has shown that just a few days of not getting enough sleep can have impacts on blood sugar and blood pressure, and insufficient sleep has been linked to diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Getting good sleep is important for memory and learning, and if you are not getting enough sleep, you may have trouble remembering details or concentrating on tasks. When we are sleep-deprived, we are also at an increased risk of having a car accident. Scientific studies of animals have even shown that severe sleep deprivation can reduce life expectancy by as much as three years!
Clearly, then, sleep is important. But many are not aware that the way we sleep changes as we age and that there are a number of different reasons our Elders may not get enough sleep. Those who have heart, lung, digestive, or neurological diseases may experience difficulty with sleep. So do those with psychiatric conditions and sleep disorders. Surprisingly, some prescriptions, over the counter medications, and herbal remedies are known to negatively affect sleep. So can nicotine from tobacco products and caffeine from our favorite beverages like soda, tea, and coffee. Often overlooked is alcohol, which is also known to disrupt sleep once its sedative effects dissipate. An uncomfortable bedroom or even noise from traffic or dogs might be causing restless sleep.
If you find it difficult to fall asleep, feel sleepy during the day, wake up often during the night, or know someone who does, there is good news: there are a number of simple steps you can take to start sleeping better and experience better physical and mental wellbeing. Click here to view the full article, The Healing Power of Sleep, on NICOA’s website.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.