A recent review of scientific literature published in the journal Neuron found that aging adults may be losing their ability to produce deep, restorative sleep.
Medical News Today states that as the brain ages, neurons and circuits in the areas that regulate sleep slowly degrade, resulting in a decreased amount of non-REM sleep. Since non-REM deep sleep plays a key role in maintaining memory and cognition, that’s is a major issue. Matthew Walker, who leads the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, reports, “Every one of the major diseases that are killing us in first-world nations – from diabetes to obesity to Alzeheimer’s disease to cancer – all of those things now have strong causal links to a lack of sleep. And all of those diseases significantly increase in likelihood the older that we get, and especially in dementia.”
Bryce Mander of University of California Berkeley says the loss of deep sleep starts as early as the mid-thirties. The major change that individuals feel is the “early-to-bed, early-to-rise” schedule or waking up in the middle of the night more often.
Millie Lytle, ND, MPH former Director of Nutrition for InVite® Health, states that if you have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, you may have insomnia. Nearly 50% of older adults have insomnia, with difficulty in getting to sleep, early awakening, or feeling unrefreshed on waking. With aging, several changes occur that higher ones risk for insomnia, including age-related changes in various circadian rhythms (your body’s internal clock), environmental and lifestyle changes, and decreases in nutrient intake, absorption, retention, and utilization of these nutrients. In addition to fatigue, insomnia in older adults is of particular concern because it could increase risk of injury, with impaired quality of life, cognitive impairment, depression and a heightened risk of metabolic syndrome. Insomnia is also associated with a moderately increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.
There are some natural alternatives that may be just what you need to begin getting the sleep you deserve, according to Mille Lytle, ND, MPH –
Magnesium is an essential mineral that has been shown to relax the nervous system, improving measures of insomnia such as sleep efficiency, sleep time, and early morning awakening. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland in your brain that regulates the body’s circadian rhythm. When Melatonin levels are high, coritsol levels are low, making this supplement an excellent factor in healthy sleep patterns. Valerian Root has been used as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment for more than 2,000 years. Extracts of the roots of valerian are widely used for inducing sleep and improving sleep quality. L-Theanine, an extract from green tea, is an excellent support for anxiety, panic, to calm down worrisome thoughts and sleep. One. Japanese study on rats found that chamomile extract helped them to fall asleep just as quickly as rats that got a dose of benzodiazepine (a tranquilizing medication).
One of the best practices that help to fall asleep is exercising. Another good tip is to finish dinner at least 2 hours prior to “hitting the hay” and develop a routine. Follow this checklist to help turn your nights into dreams:
- Turn off cell phones, computers and the television at least an hour before bed
- Go to bed at a regular time each night. The best time is at least 1-2 hours prior to midnight.
- Engage in gentle activities such as: calm conversation, listening to soothing music or meditation tracks, light stretching, having a bath, drinking herbal teas, reading a novel, cuddling or other intimate contact, or petting an animal.
Once into bed, only do sleep-time activities. At this time, using essential oils such as lavender applied to the bottoms of feet and dropping on pillow is enjoyable and soothing. If counting sheep are not enough to blank your mind, then try an exercise-based relaxation technique called progressive-relaxation, which involves clenching each muscle group of the body as hard as possible, then enjoy the relaxation. Progressive relaxation clears the mind and relaxes the body.