Many can remember times when a parent would scold you for being up too late at night and ignoring bedtime. But we were younger and felt it didn’t really matter; perhaps you felt the same way. We could get away with ignoring our rest, at least more so than now.
But that was then and things have changed.
Why sleep is so important to health
Science is very clear about the vital nature of sleep to every part of our lives, including physical and mental health. It’s not unreasonable to say that most all of our health depends on good patterns of sleep. The Sleep Foundation notes how important sleep is: 1
“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, but it’s important to note that our sleep may change too as we age.
A key part of our bodies that changes in time is a mechanism called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN.2 Simply speaking, it’s the part of the brain that helps control daily bodily rhythms, such as our sleep cycles and our hunger. As the SCN ages along with the rest of us, it can start to deteriorate. This then can lead to disruptions in those rhythms, including rest.
Get active, meet others, get sunshine, sleep better!
Getting a sufficient amount of natural light is also important in maintaining those bodily rhythms that help with sleep. The Sleep Foundation states that many older adults don’t get enough exposure to natural daylight, getting only an hour a day (if even). This only emphasizes how important it is for people to go outside and be active, and to connect with others.
Not only will your sleep benefit from being outside in sunshine, many studies have shown positives simply as a result of being out in nature. Take this description provided by the University of Minnesota to heart: 3
“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.”
Getting good rest goes way beyond a comfy bed and the right pillow, it comes down to what we do during the day too!
Some sleep issues as we age
However, sleep can be a battle for older adults, with insomnia being a main culprit of sleep problems for those 60 plus. If you find yourself dealing with insomnia, talk to your doctor. Being proactive in the face of any health challenge is one of the best things you can do for your well-being.
Be proactive and preventative!
This blog only touches on sleep and its importance, and some of the challenges people confront as they grow older. But as written above, being proactive in the face of sleep issues, or better yet, being preventative, can do wonders for long-term wellness. 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. And remember: invest in rest to be your best!
Sleep Foundation, Why Do We Need Sleep? March 11, 2022. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep
2. Sleep Foundation, Aging and Sleep, March 18, 2022. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/aging-and-sleep
3. 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