As you grow older, it can be harder and harder to get a good night’s sleep. Restless nights can be the unfortunate consequence of other health issues associated with aging, such as sleep apnea, arthritic pain, frequent urination, or the side effects of medication.
However, while your sleep patterns change over the years, waking up tired is not a natural symptom of aging—and regardless of your age, it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. Here’s why:
Sleep plays a key role in strengthening your immune system and overall physical health. During the night, your body heals damage that has been done to your cells and tissues, including your heart. That’s likely why those who are well rested also have a significantly lower incidence of heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease, as well as lower blood pressure. Sleep can also reduce physical discomfort—studies indicate a good night’s sleep makes people less susceptible to the effects of pain. Finally, a lack of sleep can suppress your immune system’s ability to function; one study found that those who slept seven hours or less were more likely to catch the common cold.
Sleep improves your memory, logic, learning and ability to think clearly. Have you ever tried to solve a complex math problem or make a difficult decision when you were tired? Then you know how vital shut-eye is. Those who are well rested perform better on standardized tests, are more readily able to memorize new information, and are better at solving logic problems.
It’s called “beauty sleep” for a reason. Sleeping Beauty had a good reason to snooze for so long. According to a 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal, a solid night’s sleep may improve your looks (not that you need to worry about them). Researchers asked participants to rate the appearances of sleep-deprived people and those who had slept. Not surprisingly, people who had eight hours of sleep per night were rated as looking healthier and more attractive.
Without sleep, you are more prone to falls or accidents. Overtiredness makes you more likely to trip or bump into things. While this may less of an issue when you’re young, it can be hugely problematic for older adults, particularly those with health conditions such as osteoporosis.
Sleeping can help you maintain a healthy weight. If you get a full night’s sleep, you’re less likely to raid the fridge in the morning. Leptin, a hormone that helps you feel full, is produced while you sleep. But if you don’t sleep enough, your leptin levels can drop causing you to crave high-fact and high-calorie foods. In one study that followed 500 adults over a period of more than a decade, those who got less sleep were 7.5 times more likely to be overweight.
Daytime fatigue can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Without a good night’s sleep, you’re likely to feel the effects of loneliness more acutely. However, regardless of whether you need some quality shut-eye or have had a solid night’s rest, Keeping Connected is here if you need to talk.