Sleep Tips for Older Adults: Overcoming Insomnia and Getting Better Sleep

Source: helpguide.com

Source: helpguide.com

As we age, we often experience normal changes in our sleeping patterns, such as becoming sleepy earlier, waking up earlier, or experiencing less deep sleep. However, disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, and other symptoms of insomnia are not a normal part of aging. Sleep is just as important to our physical and emotional health as it was when we were younger. These tips can help you overcome age-related sleep problems, get a good night’s rest, and improve the quality of your waking life.

Why is sleep so important for older adults?

A good night’s sleep is especially important to older adults because it helps improve concentration and memory formation, allows your body to repair any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshes your immune system, which in turn helps to prevent disease.

  • Older adults who don’t sleep well are more likely to suffer from depression, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, and experience more nighttime falls.

  • Insufficient sleep can also lead to serious health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems, and breast cancer in women.

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The Benefits of Slumber Why You Need a Good Night’s Sleep

Source: National Institutes of Health

Source: National Institutes of Health

We have so many demands on our time—jobs, family, errands—not to mention finding some time to relax. To fit everything in, we often sacrifice sleep. But sleep affects both mental and physical health. It’s vital to your well-being.

Of course, sleep helps you feel rested each day. But while you’re sleeping, your brain and body don’t just shut down. Internal organs and processes are hard at work throughout the night.

“Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood,” says Dr. Merrill Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at NIH.

When you’re tired, you can’t function at your best. Sleep helps you think more clearly, have quicker reflexes and focus better. “The fact is, when we look at well-rested people, they’re operating at a different level than people trying to get by on 1 or 2 hours less nightly sleep,” says Mitler.

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Poor Sleep May Heighten Alzheimer's Risk

Source: medicalxpress.com

Source: medicalxpress.com

Older adults who are sleepy during the day might have harmful plaque building in their brain that is a sign of impending Alzheimer's disease, researchers report.

A hallmark of Alzheimer's is the accumulation of a protein in the brain called beta-amyloid. It's believed that one benefit of sleep is to clear beta-amyloid, and poor sleep might allow it to build up, the authors of the new study pointed out.

"Elderly individuals with excessive daytime sleepiness may be more vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease-related changes," said corresponding author Prashanthi Vemuri, an associate professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Vemuri noted that the new study is only observational and as such does not prove that poor sleep causes an increase in beta-amyloid.

The association, however, is so strong that a link between sleep and beta-amyloid probably exists, but exactly what that link may be isn't clear, she added.

It's also unclear how much poor sleep it takes to increase beta-amyloid accumulation, the researchers said.

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