Sluggishness and circles under the eyes are apparent signs that a sleepless night is bad for you in the short term. But what about long-term effects? NPR recently reported on a new study which showed that older adults who experienced disturbed sleep were more likely to develop dementia than those whose sleep was uninterrupted.
The study was conducted at University of California, San Francisco by psychiatrist Kristine Yaffe, who states that screening for sleep problems earlier on may help older adults lower their risk of dementia later in life.
The article also shares tips for optimizing sleep from University of California, San Diego psychologist Sonia Ancoli-Israel:
- Less is More
Limiting the amount of sleep may seem counter-intuitive, but the article explains:
One of the most effective strategies is to actually restrict the amount of time people sleep, starting with very little time — say, five hours — and slowly adding 15-minute increments until the recommended eight hours is reached.
- Catch Some Rays
As we age, Ancoli-Israel notes that our circadian rhythms make us sleepy earlier at night and naturally awake earlier in the morning. But what if we have an evening event or activity that we need to be awake for?
In that case, Ancoli-Israel suggests light. “Light is the strongest cue our body has to know when to go to sleep and when to get up. Lots of light exposure during the day helps us have a strong biological clock,” she says.
And the best source of light is the sun. Ancoli-Israel says a late afternoon or early evening walk, when the sun is still out, is best. That delays the circadian rhythm and helps people stay alert later in the evening and sleep longer in the morning.
- Be Bored
Want to watch that heart-pounding action movie? Play a thrilling card game? Get those stressful bills paid? Don’t do it–at least, not right before bedtime. Instead, try to make yourself bored enough to go to sleep.
If you don’t fall asleep in 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing. “Don’t watch a suspenseful movie or read a suspenseful book,” [Ancoli-Israel] says. “Watch something a little more boring, read something a little more boring, so that when you get sleepy, you’re willing to set it down and go to bed.”
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