Are You Getting Enough Of This?

It’s critical to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep, it’s something we all know we need, yet many of us don’t get enough of.  In fact, the CDC reports that more than 80 million American adults are now chronically sleep-deprived, getting less than the recommended 7 hours of shut-eye per night.

And as I’ve been reminded several times this summer, this deficit is especially critical for Baby Boomers and older adults.  Here’s why:

We all need enough time to cycle through several stages of sleep four or five times each night: we consolidate and edit information, creating specific memories in the early stages, while our bodies recuperate during the latter stages.  In a separate part of sleep, we experience REM (rapid eye movement sleep); it’s here that we dream.

But as we grow older, we find a good night’s sleep more and more elusive.  Many seniors take longer to fall asleep and are more likely to wake often throughout the night.  They take medications that may interfere with sleep, while downing others to help them nod off.

Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also associated with a poorer quality of life: depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls, even weight gain.

I’ve been a poor sleeper since I was a kid, attempting throughout the years to put in place various strategies to improve my nightly zzz’s.  But it wasn’t until I learned the relationship between sleep and brain health that I really took heed.

Here’s the information that really got me to rearrange my sleeping times:

Poor sleep is linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  It seems that brain cells are packed tightly together during the day.  But in the deeper stages of sleep, these cells shrink, creating spaces between them.  At this point, spinal fluids can wash out harmful beta-amyloids, substances closely associated with the development of Alzheimer’s.

We all want our brains to remain sound as long as possible.  Along with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, getting enough sleep is another weapon in your arsenal to fight the devastating effects of dementia.

So do what you can to get the best night’s sleep possible:

  • Avoid caffeine later in the day
  • Don’t eat or exercise late at night
  • Increase your exposure to bright light during the morning and daytime
  • Decrease exposure to blue light at night (computers, cell phones)
  • Minimize alcohol consumption after dinner, as it can disrupt a sound sleep
  • Sleep in a cool, dark environment
  • And most importantly, keep a regular to-sleep and awake-up time schedule.  For me, this has always been difficult, but I’ve now got my wake-up times between weekdays and weekends down to just 30 minutes apart.  It’s the sleep time that remains a problem for me.  But I’m working on it, for my brain’s sake!

For more tips to help you sleep, give me a call!

We can discuss some practical tips and discover if any of my programs or classes are a good fit for you.
If you’d like to schedule that call with me, just CLICK THIS LINK, and let me know in the message that you would like a 1-on-1 call with me right away and I will be in touch to schedule that—oh, and leave me your phone number in there too since email is not as reliable as it used to be! Thanks.

Lisa Teresi Harris is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer, and author of the book Building Your Enduring Fitness.  A certified Geri-Fit Instructor, she helps Boomers and seniors to regain and keep muscle strength, mobility, and energy.
Contact Lisa to inquire about a customized, in-home fitness program for you or a loved one.

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