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Sleep Success for the Older Adult

Posted on July 23, 2020

Sleep is an essential part of life. Without it, your body—and mind—don’t work up to par. That may be especially true as you age. A study suggests that older adults who sleep better gen­erally think better.

Colorful gears forming a human brain together with one red big central cog.

 An Aging Brain?

You probably know firsthand how a lack of sleep can muddle your mind. An international study looked at this link as it relates to aging. Re­searchers asked more than 30,000 older adults about their sleep patterns. Study participants reported on how well they slept and how long they slept over two days.

To see how poor sleep might affect brain func­tion, researchers then asked the adults to do a series of cognitive tests. The tests as­sessed each person’s mem­ory and thought processes. For example, one test had participants recite an ever-growing list of numbers.

The result? Adults who slept less than six hours a night scored lower on the tests. So, too, did those who slumbered an average of nine-plus hours every night. But adults who rated their sleep quality as good scored much higher. The research­ers note that better sleep may help avert some of the age-related changes that happen to the brain.

Better Brain Function

Contrary to common belief, older adults need just as much sleep as younger people. That’s about seven to nine hours a night. But sleep patterns can change as you age. In particular, older adults tend to spend less time in deep sleep. As a re­sult, they may wake up easi­ly and more often. That may affect their mental abilities.

You may not be able to fend off all age-related brain changes. But sleeping better may help. Here are some ways to ensure a bet­ter night’s rest and save your aging brain in return:

  • Set a sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Prep your bedroom for sleep. Make sure it’s dark and quiet. Keep the tem­perature comfortable.
  • Watch your diet. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime.
  • Build a sleep routine. Do something that relaxes you at the end of your day. For instance, read a book or listen to music.
  • Talk with your doctor about any sleep prob­lems. Some health con­ditions or medicines for them can disrupt sleep.

Sleep Plus a Lifetime of Learning

Want to help stave off dementia? Add a lifetime of learning to a better night’s rest. A study in the journal JAMA Neurology found that people who worked their brains throughout their lives were less likely to de­velop dementia. Even more intriguing, those who took up intellectual pursuits in mid- and late life had an even lower risk for the brain disease. No matter your age, activities such as reading, playing games, working on the computer, and simply being social may keep your brain sharp.

Concerned About Your Sleep?

If you’re concerned about your sleep health, talk with your physi­cian about a referral to the Methodist Sleep Diagnostic Center, where sleep disor­ders can be diagnosed and treated. For more infor­mation or to make an ap­pointment, please call (865) 835-3810 or go online to mmcoakridge.com/sleep.