Sleeping well while young pays off in old age
The health benefits of getting a good night’s sleep are well known. Now, new research says improving sleeping habits early in life could also ward off memory problems in old age.
After reviewing 50 years of study results on sleep, researchers at Baylor University’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, say they found a link between better memory in old age to how well people sleep in their younger years.
“It’s the difference between investing up front rather than trying to compensate later,” said study leader Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D, in a news release. “We came across studies that showed that sleeping well in middle age predicted better mental functioning 28 years later.”
The findings were published the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.
The report said that the “benefits of a sound night’s sleep for young adults are diverse and unmistakable.” Researchers noted that middle age people with good sleeping habits experience “deep sleep”—a time when the brain assembles the day’s experiences and replays them which then leads to better recollection. Those with poor sleeping habits did not gain the same benefits, researchers said.
Good sleep habits need to be made in high school and kept throughout a person’s life, experts say. Dr. Muhammad Hamadeh, specialist in pulmonary medicine and medical director of pulmonary rehabilitation at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., recommends people practice the following sleep hygiene tips:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Your internal clock becomes confused when bedtimes regularly fluctuate and your sleep schedule can be thrown off.
- Develop sleep rituals:Relax yourself an hour before bedtime with soothing activities and thoughts. Leave any work or frustrations at your bedroom door.
- Head into bed only when you are tired: Only lay in bed when you are ready to fall asleep, so your mind only associates your bed with sleep and not work or television. If you are not sleeping within 20 minutes, move into another room for a relaxing activity until you are ready to fall asleep.
- Exercise early and eat lightly: Exercise at least four hours before bedtime as physical activity can raise your body temperature and disrupt the sleep rhythm. Avoid heavy meals before bedtime and always cut caffeine out of your diet after 2 pm.
- Never nap:Even if you are tired throughout the day, do not take a nap as your sleep schedule will be affected at night time.
Study leaders said they hope the findings make a compelling case for getting a solid snooze.
“People sometimes disparage sleep as ‘lost’ time,” Scullin said. “But even if the link between sleep and memory lessens with age, “sleeping well still is linked to better mental health, improved cardiovascular health and fewer, less severe disorders and diseases of many kinds.”
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