Getting too much sleep
It’s natural for sleep patterns to change as you age. For example, parents caring for a newborn baby might average three to four hours, while a 60-something who recently retired might be able to manage nine a night. In the same study of 7,500 women in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the researchers found that sleeping more than eight hours a night increased the risk of dementia by 35 percent. Using certain types of sleep aids to get enough sleep may also be a problem: “I often see patients with insomnia or other sleeping problems resolving their issues with medications,” says Dr Segil. “One type of sleeping pill often used is Benadryl, which is an antihistamine. These medications decrease the same chemicals in the brain that one family of Alzheimer’s medications is designed to increase.” Talk with your doctor and make sure if you’re going to take sleeping pills, other behavioural things have been tried like improving your sleep hygiene.
Lacking a sense of purpose or meaning in life
Having a strong sense of purpose – for example, a reason to get up in the morning, knowing that people are depending upon you, feeling that you are making important contributions and possibly even making a difference in this world – could contribute to healthy ageing, explains Scott Kaiser, MD, Chief Innovation Officer and practicing geriatrician at MPTF. “Many scientific studies clearly support this notion and demonstrate the value of having a strong sense of purpose in our older age in promoting many domains of good health and wellbeing – including our brain health and in reducing our risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” he says.
Neglecting to give back
While volunteering is not the only pathway to purposeful living – people also find meaning and purpose at work, through family relationships, and a variety of social activities – Dr Kaiser notes that research on volunteerism clearly demonstrates its rich benefits and its powerful role as a valuable ingredient for healthy ageing. “Older volunteers in a 2013 study experienced a reduced risk of hypertension, delayed physical disability, enhanced cognition and lower mortality,” he explains. “While the mechanisms of these correlations were not clear, researchers identified the physical activity, cognitive engagement, and social interaction aspects of volunteerism as contributing factors.” Bonus: While you’re helping others, you’re also helping yourself!