Sleep’s Importance in Aging Well
Many think that as we get older, the need for sleep decreases but results from research are saying otherwise. While it is true that seniors’ sleep patterns change over the years, a full night’s sleep (7.5-9 hours), undisturbed, is as important as the emotional and physical state of their life.
Sleep helps the memory process, allows for cell regeneration and strengthens the immune system.According to the article “Sleeping Well as You Age”, many physicians usea senior’s ability to sleep as an indicator of his or her health status. With reduced sleep, there is a greater concern about the onset of depression, memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, weight problems, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even breast cancer in women.
In the aging process, growth hormones and melatonin levels decrease. With the reduction of growth hormones there is less of a deep sleep or slow wave sleep, while the reduction of melatonin can cause a more broken sleep or faster sleep cycles. The circadian rhythm is the internal “clock” that tells you when it is time for sleep and when it is time to wake up. For seniors, as this “clock” is changing, bedtime and rising from sleep happens earlier and with the need to get up during the night, it may take more sleep time to satisfy the senior’s sleep requirement. Sometimes naps are required to satisfy a senior’s needs. It is normal for this to occur.
If seniors want to improve their quality of sleep, there are easy ways to help, such as participating in social interactions during the day, speaking with a trusted friend about worries and problems, regular exercise and time in the sunlight whether outside or keeping your home bright and sunny. Exposure to light can help regulate melatonin levels.
According to a LiveStrong.com article, http://www.livestrong.com/article/279680-food-containing-melatonin/, another way of keeping melatonin levels up is by consuming trace amounts found in the following foods: olive oil, tomatoes, walnuts, beer and wines, tart cherries and grape skins. Before taking a melatonin supplement,in hopes of getting a sounder night’s sleep, it is recommended that a physician be consulted for directives.
The Better Sleep Council (http://www.bettersleep.org) provides tips on getting better sleep – from checking the mattress to making sure not to exercise or eat too close to bedtime. The Council even recommends having no television, computer or work materials in the bedroom.
According to Timi Gustafson, RD http://blog.seattlepi.com/timigustafsonrd/2010/02/22/the-importance-of-sleep-for-your-health/ , getting ample sleep is one of the greatest remedies for staying healthy and dealing with the stress of everyday challenges. Rested and relaxed seniors will have more energy and the ability to keep a positive outlook on life. When sleep is given high priority, the quality of life is better all the way around.