During times of stress like we’re all experiencing, it’s vitally important that we stay healthy by practicing self-care. But sadly, one of the first casualties of stress is sleep. A year ago, we shared this story reminding our AgingOptions blog readers that skipping sleep is potentially dangerous, even in the best of times. That means the first step toward better health might be to start getting enough sleep, and that includes both an earlier bedtime and an earlier wake-up time.
British Study Shows “Early to Bed, Early to Rise” Really Does Improve Health
Our blog report focused on a 2018 research study in Great Britain, described in this article on the BBC website, revealing how people who fall into the “late to bed, late to rise” group may be unwittingly putting their health at risk. The wide-ranging study tracked more than 430,000 adults between 40 and 73 over a 6-plus year period. The scientific study (you’ll find a link here) isn’t easy reading, but if you wade through the technical jargon you’ll uncover some disturbing evidence to suggest that people of all ages who stay up late at night and arise later in the morning have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders than their early-to-bed-early-to-rise peers.
“Increased risk of early death, psychological disorders and respiratory illness were the stark findings from the paper, which backed up other research suggesting late-nighters are more likely to suffer ill health,” the BBC article reports.
Seniors and Sleep: Genetics Play a Major Role
Whether you’re an evening person or a morning person may not be entirely a matter of preference. “When we want to sleep and wake is not just a habit, nor is it a sign of discipline,” reports the BBC. “Instead, it is influenced by our body clocks, about 50 percent of which is determined by our genes.” Sleep scientists believe the other half of the equation is shaped by a combination of environment and age.
We reach what the BBC calls our “peak age of lateness” at about age 20. After that our body clock tends to get progressively earlier the older we get, until as seniors it is generally assumed that we’ll tend to go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, and sleep less soundly in between.
We visited the website of the National Institute on Aging to find out how lack of sleep affects seniors, who, according to the British study, are more prone than younger people to sleep-related health problems. “Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night,” says the NIH. But as we mentioned above, older people tend to sleep less soundly and awaken much earlier than they did when they were younger, and the result is frequently a sleep deficit.
Seniors and Sleep: Health Problems, Medications and Electronics
There are several reasons why seniors can become sleep-deprived, chief among them being health problems that can trigger sleep-robbing physical pain. Some medications or drug combinations are sleep-inhibiting. Seniors often complain, especially with the current pandemic crisis, that worry about their families in times of stress robs them of rest. Whatever the reason, says the NIH, lack of sleep can trigger obvious problems like irritability or loss of balance, and is also linked to seniors feeling depressed and even experiencing cognitive problems that can be misdiagnosed as early signs of dementia.
Another sleep-killer that is common to restless seniors (and to regular night owls) is watching television or using a smart phone before bed – a particular problem for seniors who are also news junkies. The blue-spectrum light from most televisions, smart phones, and computer screens is known to mess up the body’s normal adjustment to evening light in a way that makes falling asleep that much harder. One way to train your body to feel sleepy earlier involves getting more natural sunlight early in the morning and avoiding artificial light late at night: this helps adjust the body’s sleep rhythm.
Seniors and Sleep: Healthy Living and Regular Sleep Habits Pay Dividends
The BBC-reported study agrees with the NIH recommendations that behaviors such as eating large meals late at night, drinking alcohol, and excess smoking, are bad for your sleep, and for your overall health. We wonder whether some of these behaviors among seniors might result in part from living alone. If you have a loved one in your life living on their own, and you suspect they’re not getting enough sleep, you should investigate the lifestyle choices they might be making.
And while you’re at it, find out of your loved one is spending too much time glued to the news. The first step toward a good night’s sleep might be a “news fast.”
Two Important Retirement-Planning Announcements from AgingOptions
At AgingOptions our chief desire is to help you prepare for the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of having. Toward that end, we want to share two important announcements that are designed to facilitate your LifePlanning process even during this period when most of us are required to avoid gathering in groups.
First, Rajiv Nagaich has scheduled several of his popular, free LifePlanning Seminars in the form of webinars that you can watch conveniently at home. Simply visit our Events Page and register for the webinar of your choice.
Our second announcement: in cooperation with our partners at LifePoint Law, we are excited to launch a ground-breaking new service called the LifePoint Law Emergency Legal Kit. Without leaving your home, you can now consult with a LifePoint Law attorney who will work with you to prepare and sign a complete set of vitally important legal documents including both Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive, a Will or Trust, and much more. Click on the link or call us at AgingOptions and we’ll explain this excellent service to you.
Reliable information has never been more important – and that’s our promise to you at AgingOptions and LifePoint Law. Age on!
(originally reported at www.bbc.com)