The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep each night, especially as we age. Changes in sleep patterns as we get older can result in insomnia which can in turn affect our health.
Sleep changes as we age
Changes in our sleep patterns as we age can include:
- Feeling tired in the evening
- Waking up early
- Waking in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep
So why does our sleep-wake cycle change? A lot of factors can be at play – age, lifestyle, health conditions, medications.
Recent studies tying lack of sleep to Alzheimer’s disease and memory issues as we age make getting a restful sleep even more important.2
Losing sleep could have consequences
A recent NIH study indicated that lack of sleep might be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The study showed that sleep might play a role in increasing levels of beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.2
While research is still ongoing, what is already known is that sleep strengthens memories. When you were a student cramming for an exam your mother probably told you the best thing you could do before an exam was get a good night’s sleep. She was right.
Sleep before an exam can help prepare your brain to absorb information, while sleep after studying helps strengthen the memories you formed throughout the day. In fact, lack of sleep can drop your ability to learn by 40% - a great argument against pulling an all-nighter!3
The answer? Sleep well!
So, the answer to improving memory in aging adults and helping students ace exams is more sleep – easy, right? While it may seem like no matter what you do, you just can’t turn your brain off at night, there are things you can do to help ensure a restful night:
- Eat a healthful diet
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce stress – yoga, meditation, deep breathing
- Nap – but no more than 20 minutes4,1
- Avoid caffeine late in the day
- Avoid eating large meals late in the day
- Turn off your electronic devices at least a half-hour before bedtime
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime
- To prevent wakeful trips to the bathroom, drink fewer fluids right before you head off to bed
- Keep a “worry journal” – write down what’s on your mind5
- Make your bedroom a relaxing sanctuary6
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule4
- Get out of bed if you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes4
We’re here to help
If sleep problems persist, see your doctor – it could be a medical issue or sleep disorder. Be sure to ask your doctor or Health Mart pharmacist about any medications, herbs, or supplements that could be affecting your sleep5 or if you require a prescription or over-the-counter sleep aid.
Health Mart. Caring for you and about you.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
- MedlinePlus: “Changing your sleep habits.” Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000757.htm Accessed 6-1-18
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine: “Healthy Sleep Habits.” Available at: http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits Accessed 6-1-18.
- National Institutes of Health: “Sleep On It.” Available at: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/sleep-it Accessed 6-1-18.
- Familydoctor.org: “Sleep Changes in Older Adults.” Available at: https://familydoctor.org/sleep-changes-in-older-adults/?adfree=true Accessed 6-1-18.
- Mayo Clinic: “Adult health.” Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379?p=1 Accessed 6-1-18.
Posted on Sun, July 1, 2018
by Jana Spaulding