We often hear that sleep is important, but that leads to several questions:
• How much sleep should we be getting?
• What if we have less sleep than we should?
• Can you have too much sleep?
• Is an afternoon nap a good thing or a bad thing?
The Harvard Medical School says:
The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to eight hours of sleep for people over age 64.
Nearly 50% of us sleep less than these recommendations. That’s worrisome, because the average person has worse health outcomes (including more obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and shorter life) if he or she sleeps less or more than these ranges, on average.
Why do we need this much sleep? In recent years, we’ve learned that during sleep, waste material is flushed out of our brains. For example, the waste material includes proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease. It’s much less clear why people who sleep more than recommended also have worse health outcomes.
In “The End of Alzheimer’s”, Doctor Bredesen asserts that there are 36 ways that the brain can be stressed, leading to Alzheimer’s Disease. One of these is lack of sleep. He recommends 7 to 8 hours per night.
In “How Not to Die”, Doctor Greger reports that in a US study, people had a higher risk of a stroke when they slept 6 hours or less, OR 9 hours or more. The lowest risk was 7 to 8 hours.
So how to get that sleep?
If you find it difficult to get to sleep, or to stay asleep for the 7 to 8 hours, then here’s some helpful advice from the UK National Health Service:
• Keep regular sleep hours.
• Confront sleeplessness.
• Create a restful environment.
• Write down your worries.
• Move more, sleep better.
• Put down the pick-me-ups.
The Sleep Foundation has these tips for falling asleep:
• Carve out at least 30 minutes of wind-down time before bed.
• Disconnect from close-range electronic devices.
• In order to calm your mind, do a breathing or relaxation exercise.
• Wake up at the same time every day.
And what about taking a daytime nap?
The Sleep Foundation advises: Naps can be very helpful.
Sleeping for a short time (no more than 20 mins) can make you more alert and energetic. It’s important not to nap late in the day because this can make it hard to fall asleep at night.
Link to my post on “Alzheimer’s Disease”
Link to my post “How Not to Die”
Link to my post on “Stroke“