Don’t Sleep on It: The Value of a Good Night’s SleepJun 06, 2022
I’m sure many if not most of you can recall days back in your youth when you were chastised by a parent for staying up into the wee hours, and neglecting your sleep. But we were younger of course, and felt invincible, without having to worry about something so seemingly a trifle as sleep.
That was then, this is now.
Science is unequivocal in emphasizing the importance of sleep to not just our physical health, but to our mental health, and every other facet of living. One could go so far as to say that healthy sleep is the very foundation upon which our entire being rests. The Sleep Foundation succinctly notes1 how important sleep is:
“Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly.”
None of this is likely surprising, nor are they earth-shattering revelations. But as with many life and health connected issues, as our bodies age and change, our sleep may change too.
How our sleep changes with age
One key element of our bodies that alters with age is the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN.2 In layman’s terms, it’s the part of the brain that helps control our daily bodily routines and rhythms. Those rhythms include when we feel awake and alert, or tired and sleepy, and also senses of hunger. The SCN ages along with the rest of us and can begin to deteriorate in time. This then can lead to a disruption in bodily rhythms, including rest.
The importance of sunshine to our sleep
Exposure to light (natural, not artificial) also plays a key role in maintaining those bodily rhythms that help with sleep. The Sleep Foundation states that many older adults lack sufficient daylight exposure, getting only an hour a day. This fact only underscores how vitally important it is for people to go outside, be active, and connect.
And that’s one of the true benefits of the community platform I’ve created, Amintro. Amintro lets adults 50+ make new bonds of friendship, and encourages people to go out and be active. This study from the Sleep Foundation just underscores how essential socializing is to a healthy life. One of the primary purposes of Amintro is to connect people to their peers, to go out, live life, and get that sunshine. Go outside and be with nature, which has been shown repeatedly to be so beneficial to mental and physical health, and, sleep. And what better way to get sunshine than to be with others you can relate to, and share life through bonds of friendship.
The benefits of outside activity
Indeed, many studies have shown the benefits of outdoor activity, not just due to the exercise involved (walking, cycling, etc.), but simply as a result of being out in nature. Take this description provided by the University of Minnesota to heart:
“Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality, according to scientists such as public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell.”3
So, getting a good night’s sleep goes far beyond a comfortable bed and the right pillow (although those are important too), it comes down to what we do during the day as well.
Sleep issues as we age
Sleep can be a battle for older adults however, with insomnia being the primary instigator of sleep problems for those 60 and over. If you find yourself battling insomnia, talk to your doctor, don’t face it alone. Being proactive in the face of any health challenge, sleep or otherwise, is one of the best things you can do for your well-being.
This piece only scratches the surface with regards to sleep and its importance, and some of the challenges people confront as they advance in age. But as noted above, being proactive in the face of sleep issues, and better yet, being preventative, can do wonders for your long-term health and happiness. Get your 7-9 hours a night, set a routine, don’t drink too much caffeine or alcohol, and perhaps above all else, get active. You deserve nothing less.
Written and contributed by Charlene Nadalin, Founder of Amintro. Amintro is the online social platform and information hub exclusively for those 50+ interested in expanding their circles of friends and staying involved, informed and connected. Another great thing about Amintro is that it’s FREE and easy to join! To learn more about Amintro, please visit https://amintro.com/
- Sleep Foundation, Why Do We Need Sleep? March 11, 2022. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep
- Sleep Foundation, Aging and Sleep, March 18, 2022. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/aging-and-sleep
- Taking Charge of your Health & Wellbeing, University of Minnesota, How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing? 2016. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing
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