By Marwan Hamed, MPH
Sleep! We need 7 to 9 hours of it per night to help us stay physically and mentally healthy. As we age, our sleep changes and unfortunately, after we become 60 or older, this becomes harder to accomplish because of natural changes to our bodies and side effects of some of our medications. These factors can make us wake up throughout the night and can really mess up our sleep pattern.
Problems from poor sleep
The problem is that poor sleep, especially in older adults, has been linked to greater risk for heart disease, obesity, falls, disability, dementia, memory problems, brain function decline, as well as depression — the lows.
Problems that affect sleep
Beyond natural changes in our bodies and the effects of medications, other factors have been shown to disturb sleep patterns in older adults — such as changes in our body clock and the development or onset of several psychiatric and mental illnesses, including dementia.
How to improve sleep
But there is good news, too! There are natural ways to improve sleep that can have beneficial impacts on our health! These methods include:
- Keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule.
- Taking a 10- to 30-minute power nap in the early afternoon.
- Limiting use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products.
- Exercising safely and regularly.
- Using the power of bright light therapy.
Dementia! Maybe you’ve heard the term before or maybe not. On any occasion, dementia is sort of an umbrella term that covers several conditions linked to memory and brain function that are severe enough to impact daily living. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and it is very common, with more than 6 million Americans 65 years or older currently living with the disease. There are also milder forms of dementia that allow more self-care and enjoyment, but still with memory lapses.
Air quality and dementia
Earlier in this article, we noted on how dementia could be one of those problems from poor sleep as well as one of the problems that could be affecting how we sleep. What we didn’t mention was that there is emerging research that shows, “Reducing air pollution [is] linked to slowed brain aging, lower dementia risk”.
Air quality study in a nutshell
- 2,232 women without dementia between the ages of 74 and 92 were selected for study.
- Researchers measured their brain function each year for 10 years, from 2008 to 2018.
They combined and analyzed data based on well-known air quality indicators — particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
What did they find?
They discovered that improved levels of NO2 were strongly linked to slower memory decline — less NO2 → less memory loss!
So, what’s the takeaway?
If you or someone you know is struggling with sleep at night, then you can try combining three constructive approaches, as we have outlined here, especially if you are 60 years old or older:
- Speak with a licensed health professional about your mental and physical health.
- Try some of the methods outlined in this article, under “How to improve sleep.”
- Take advantage of natural treatment options. CET has selected some of the best therapeutic options that could help you sleep, as you can explore throughout our site and online shop.
Marwan Hamed is a freelance writer for CET.