Surprising perks of adequate shut-eye
Getting enough sleep isn’t only about avoiding negative consequences. Science has also uncovered loads of encouraging benefits to achieving the recommended average of eight hours per night. Recent evidence suggests that it leads to:
- Enhanced ability to read facial expressions
- Better immune-system functioning
- Fewer cravings for sweet treats
- Lessened chronic pain
- More measured approach to risk-taking
- Less inflammation
How to see the light (and still drift off)
The blue part of the light spectrum boosts mood and energy during daytime but can throw off your circadian clock in the hours leading up to bedtime. Most of us are getting more blue-light exposure than ever because of smartphones, laptops and LED light, which are bluer than their less energy-efficient predecessors. You could cut down on late-day screen time, but if that’s not realistic, try wearing amber-tinted glasses in the evening, as a recent Columbia University Medical Center study of insomnia sufferers suggests.
How to adapt to the effects of ageing
How does ageing affect our slumber?
You can’t expect to sleep as well at 65 as you did at 20. You’ll sleep for a shorter time and less deeply. And you’ll become more sensitive to interference; for instance, stress or noise that wouldn’t have roused you when you were younger. As such, you’ll need to take better care of your rest.
Do these changes have an impact on people during their waking life?
Definitely. Just because something is normal doesn’t mean it won’t have consequences. The decline in sleep quality has the ability to affect memory and overall health.
Are scientists currently working on any treatments to help improve sleep in the elderly?
Yes, but they’re all in the early stages. For instance, to promote a deeper sleep, researchers are experimenting with transcranial direct current stimulation. But we can’t yet say for sure that it works.
Could sleeping pills help?
There aren’t any pharmaceuticals that can increase sleep – and especially not deep sleep – without having negative consequences the next day.
Is it OK for tired seniors to have a nap during the day?
Yes, so long as that doesn’t lead to insomnia at night. Keep in mind that with age comes an increased chance of various sleep disorders. If you’re excessively tired all day, that’s not among the normal, expected changes. It would certainly warrant a visit to the doctor.
Dr Julie Carrier, director of the Canadian Sleep and Circadian Network