Presented by HealthPRO-Heritage Rehabilitation Team

We all look forward to a good night’s sleep.  It allows our body to rest and restore its energy levels.  Without enough sleep, we can become grumpy, irritable, inattentive and more prone to accidents.  Like food and water, adequate sleep is essential to good health and quality of life.

RESEARCH FACTS

A study at the University of Pittsburgh lead by Dr. Jane Cauley analyzed data from more than 157,000 individuals between the ages of 50-80 who were followed for up to 12 years.  It concluded that sleep length (hours slept) is tied to risk for falls and fractures.  The findings were an increased risk of recurrent falls associated with both short and long term lengths of sleep times.  If there are less than 5 hours of sleep there is a 27% increase risk of recurrent falls.  If there are more than 10 hours of sleep there is a 24% increased risk of recurrent falls.  A study out of Duke University Medical Center found that sleep regularity has a greater influence on health than sleep duration and timing.  Their study concluded that a regular sleep schedule is associated with lower weight, lower blood sugar levels, and a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.

HOW SLEEP WORKS

There are two types of sleep:

  1. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep
  2. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep

NREM sleep consists of four stages, ranging from light to deep sleep.  We cycle through theses stages approximately every 90 minutes.  Then we go into REM sleep, the most active stage when dreaming often occurs.  We need both types of sleep to maximize sleep benefits.  Researchers believe that two body systems which help regulate sleep are:

  1. The sleep-wake process
  2. Our unique circadian or biological clock

These systems program our bodies to feel sleepy at night and awake during the day. The sleep-wake process works by balancing the amount of sleep a person needs with the amount of time they spend awake.  Our circadian clock is a 24-hour body rhythm that is affected by sunlight.  It regulates the production of hormones like melatonin, which is secreted during the night and promotes sleep, and manages other processes like body temperature.

 

HOW SLEEP HABITS CHANGE WITH AGE

Sleep needs change naturally throughout a person’s lifetime.  Interestingly, older adults need about the same amounts of sleep as their younger counterparts – 7 to 9 hours each night.  Unfortunately, many older adults get less sleep than they need. One reason is that they often have a difficult time falling asleep.  A study of adults over 65 found that 13% men and 36% of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep each night.  Seniors often sleep less deeply and wake up more frequently throughout the night, which may be why they are prone to napping during the day.  Sleep schedules may change with age, too.  Many older adults tend to get drowsy earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.  Older adults may also have health issues that can affect their sleep quality including:

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Kidney Disease
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Heartburn/GERD

To complicate things further, poor sleep can contribute to additional health issues, such as:

  • Depression
  • Attention and memory problems
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Increase in nighttime falls

FIVE NATURAL WAYS TO BOOST MELATONIN PRODUCTION

  • Increase magnesium intake
  • Spend more time in the sun
  • Add tropical fruits to your diet
  • Try tart cherry juice
  • Resist checking your phone in bed

 

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