Quality of Sleep and the Aging Brain


Deep prolonged sleep seems more and more elusive as we age and it’s not our imagination, research has found that older adults demonstrated changes in the brain that affect quality and length of sleep.   A lack of non-medicated sleep among seniors has been linked with not only a poorer quality of life and loss of function but also may have a direct impact on health and chronic illness.

According to an April 5, 2017 report in Neuroscience News, a study out of UC Berkeley has found that lack of sleep among elderly adults raises the risk for memory loss and a host of physical problems.  But popping a sleeping pill is not the same as getting high quality sleep; healthy sleep leaves you feeling refreshed and alert the next day which will not follow as a result of sedation.

New research is looking at how to naturally improve not only length of sleep in older adults, but the quality of deep sleep which helps the aging brain store and transfer information.  Lack of sleep or poor sleep later in life has been connected not only with diminished cognitive function but also heart disease, obesity, diabetes and stroke.

Tips for a better night’s sleep without drugs

  • Stick to a schedule with regular sleep and wake times
  • Turn off electronic screens an hour before bedtime
  • Try to create a calming ritual: reading, listening to music or having a warm bath before bed
  • Make the bedroom a calm, quiet, dark environment, free from distractions
  • Try to get outside for natural sunlight during the day to maintain a good circadian rhythm
  • Get regular exercise every day – try to walk outdoors for 20-30 minutes a day
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine in the evening as they can interrupt sleep
  • Limit fluids before bed if getting up at night to use the bathroom is an issue
  • Limit daytime naps to no more than 30 minutes
  • Manage stress with exercise, regular social interaction and good organization

Follow this link to learn more about sleep research in older adults from the journal Neuron.