How did you sleep last night? Some of you will answer “normal, thank you”, while others will wonder when the last “normal” time was and what “normal” sleep is – the one in which you close your eyes and wake up rested in the morning. If you recognize yourself in the second example – don’t worry, you are not alone. There are already many scientific papers, articles and books that look at sleep and its role in our lives. We will tell you a little more about sleep through the prism of Matthew Walker (an English scientist and professor of neurology and psychology at the University of California, Barkeley) and his book “Why We Sleep”. His academic work is entirely focused on the impact of sleep on human health and his book became a worldwide bestseller with its publication in 2017.

Walker claims that sleeping less than 6 or 7 hours a night destroys our immune system, increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and stroke leads to weight gain and can shorten life expectancy. These are startling claims, but in his book, Walker provides research to confirm them.

Our way of life is fast-paced and sometimes sleep becomes a last priority, but with age the damage becomes noticeable. Surely you know people who are proud to get up at five or six in the morning in order to do their housework, “beat” the traffic to work or “steal” sleep time just to have time for themselves. Well, after years, there is a good chance that we will realize that sleep is also equal to time for ourselves. Our pride should take a different direction and instead of bragging about the early hour, say “I sleep a lot and I feel good”. Here are just some of the benefits of sleep.

Improves memory

Your brain is active while you sleep. This is the moment when the brain “digests” what was learned and experienced during the day and connects new memories with old ones.

Encourages creativity

Sleep helps the brain to combine different knowledge, which leads to problem solving or simply put – allows you to find the answer to a long-asked question. A good example of that is Mendeleev. In 1869, he spent hours awake analyzing chemical elements. As soon as he falls asleep, the periodic table is “revealed” in his dream.

Reduces appetite for food

Sleep helps absorb nutrients, regulates appetite and helps choose healthy foods by controlling impulses.

Keeps your immune system healthy

Another benefit of good sleep is that it helps prevent colds and flu. Recent research by Walker has found that sleep protects against certain types of cancers.

You feel happier

Improving sleep quality is used as a therapeutic tool for people with bipolar disorder, anxiety and other mental illness.

You may have heard that as we age, we need less sleep. Walker denies this, explaining that older people may have fragmentary (broken) sleep but that doesn’t mean they should sleep less. According to him, the elderly fall asleep and wake up several times at night and then cannot return to restful sleep. This is part of the natural development which the author calls “degradation”, influenced by three factors. First, they have fewer hours of deep sleep (the so-called NREM phase). Second, the biological processes in the elderly change, which makes them more sleepy in the early evening and consequently cause waking up very early in the morning. Third, frequent “walks” to the bathroom in the evening also disrupt sleep.

However, Walker points out the dangers that occur when there is a lack of sleep for the elderly. Sleeping significantly less deeply can lead to forgetfulness, reduced cognitive function, dementia and disease.

What NOT to do if we want to sleep well at any age

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine within 8 hours before bedtime. It is believed that alcohol can relax you, but it actually disrupts your breathing and deprives you of deep sleep
  • Avoid naps after 15:00
  • Do not exercise just before bedtime
  • Avoid sleeping pills – medications allow you to fall asleep but limit the deep sleep we need

What to do to sleep better after 60

  • Aim for a regular sleep schedule with a minimum of 8 hours of sleep. In other words, choose a specific time in which you will already be in bed
  • Take a hot shower before bed – cooling the body after a bath is what helps to fall asleep
  • Sleep in a cool, dark room, without phones or TV around
  • Go out in daylight for at least 30 minutes every day

We focus on the elderly, but, of course, to avoid sleep problems with age, it is necessary to receive the required dose (minimum 8 hours) of sleep while they are still young. This is one of the basic rules of a healthy body, so be sure to share with your children and encourage them not to disturb the sweet sleep.

For example, the team of assistants at Blocks Adult Care struggles with “broken” sleep, often walking with residents on campus. It is located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain, so the climate is favorable for walks, the air is clean, and the surroundings are calm and friendly. Depending on the residents, there are many different activities during the day that keep them focused and interested, and at the end of the day this leads to natural fatigue, which helps them to “take” the necessary hours of sleep. There is a kitchen in every Blocks house, so a cup of tea or warm milk before bed also helps the body relax and the brain dream.

What advice do you have for sleeping soundly? What have you tried

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