We spend up to a third of our lives sleeping. So it’s not surprising that lack of sleep can negatively impact our physical, mental and emotional health.
While it’s true that seniors don’t need as many hours of sleep as they did when they were younger, it’s also true that sleep offers benefits that are especially important for older adults.
Here’s why quality sleep is so important for seniors.
Deep Sleep Improves Memory
Aging can bring natural declines in memory and cognition. While these changes are typically normal and cause no serious issues, many seniors still want to improve their memory and mental agility as they age.
One of the best ways to keep memory and concentration sharp is getting plenty of sleep.
Studies have shown that slow-wave sleep (deep sleep) is instrumental in memory consolidation, the process of transferring recently learned information into long-term memories.
For seniors who are concerned with lapses in memory, getting uninterrupted, quality sleep can help.
Quality Sleep Helps Maintain Metabolism
As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass and experience hormonal changes. We also tend to become more sedentary than when we were when we were younger.
Loss of muscle mass is a key contributor to weight gain as we age. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so as you lose muscle and acquire fat, your body needs fewer calories to maintain your weight. Eating the same amount of calories each day leads to gradual weight gain if you aren’t weight training to maintain muscle. Because of health conditions and sedentary jobs, many adults aren’t able to maintain muscle mass into their senior years.
As a result, middle-aged adults gain an average of 1 to 2 pounds per year. As we enter our senior years, those extra pounds can hang around and become harder to lose–even with concerted effort. In fact, according to the CDC, 42.8% of adults aged 60 and over are considered obese.
Seniors who don’t sleep well may also face issues with maintaining their metabolism and controlling their appetite.
Quality sleep helps regulate the metabolism so that our bodies can efficiently convert food into energy. It also helps regulate our appetites. Lack of sleep can cause cravings for sugar and unhealthy snacks, and may cause us to overeat.
Quality Sleeps Helps Regulate Mood and Mental Health
Studies have shown that quality of sleep has a direct effect on a person’s mood the next day.
According to the National Institute on Aging, lack of quality sleep can cause increased irritability, lack of motivation and anxiety. According to the National Sleep Foundation, chronic poor sleep can exacerbate symptoms of depression.
Older people are already at an increased risk for depression because of chronic health conditions, loneliness and life changes. It’s important for seniors to not only pay attention to their sleeping patterns, but to monitor the quality of their sleep.
It is vital for seniors who are experiencing sleep disturbances or symptoms of insomnia to talk to their doctors. Lack of sleep can contribute to mental and physical health problems for seniors, especially those who already have chronic health conditions.
Have more questions about senior health and happiness?
Read the Brookfield Senior Living blog.