Seven Surprising Reasons You Need More Sleep

taylor shuman Taylor Shuman Senior Tech Expert & Editor

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We have all heard about the importance of sleep. While we all need sleep, some of us don’t think much about the many benefits that it has. There are many unexpected reasons to get more sleep, ranging from your heart health to the way you treat others.

Sleep quantity is one big factor that affects people. Many people think they sleep enough, but in fact, they are getting too little or even too much sleep. Adults that are age 65 and up need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night for optimal health.1 If you are consistently getting less or more than this range, it may be time to reconsider your sleep routine, or talk to your doctor about other options.

The quality of sleep can be equally crucial to your health. For example, seven hours of sleep is a lot different from seven hours of interrupted sleep, where you wake several times in between. Reasons for poor sleep quality include stress, sleep apnea, an undiagnosed sleep disorder, or even just poor personal sleep habits.2 Older adults who struggle with sleep quality should consult a somnologist or a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders.

Here are some reasons why you should look to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.

1. Improve your mood

Smiling woman

If you have ever gotten a poor night of sleep, you know what it feels like the next day. Not only are you groggy, but oftentimes grumpy and impatient. Getting a quality night’s sleep has the opposite effect. A study conducted by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School summarized that poor sleep quality can increase feelings of depression or anxiety; alternatively, good quality sleep can decrease stress and enhance overall well-being.3

2. Fight off illness

Elderly couple wearing face masks

You may have heard of the benefits of sleep for your immune system. It’s true that consistent sleep can strengthen your immune system, which is critical for fighting off viruses and other illnesses. Afterall, your body needs rest in order to recover. In fact, a sleep medicine specialist with the Mayo Clinic has written that adequate sleep can decrease your likelihood of getting sick after being exposed to a virus. He goes on to mention that prolonged poor sleep hygiene increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.4 You may be surprised to learn that sleep disorders have been identified as a risk factor for all cancers.5 Since older adults are generally at a higher risk of cancer, prioritizing quality sleep is especially important.

3. Lower your risk of heart disease

General practitioner and her patient

Heart health is important. After all, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in adults in the U.S.6 There are many things we can do to benefit our hearts. Eating healthy foods and exercising daily are commonly known to help prevent heart disease. Doctors can also prescribe heart-healthy diets, physical therapy, or medications to improve cardiovascular health. Talking to a doctor about your specific sleep situation is a great way to explore your options! Getting the appropriate amount of quality sleep is another way you can reduce your risk of heart disease.  Health conditions connected with inadequate amounts or poor quality of sleep include increased risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.7

Did You Know?

Did You Know? Better sleep habits can aid in improving overall sleep quality. The CDC recommends getting enough natural light and physical activity during the day, sticking to a schedule, and avoiding food, alcohol, and artificial light in the hours leading to bedtime

4. Weight management

Women exercising

Many older adults struggle with weight management. As we age, our metabolism slows down, making weight management more challenging. Eating right and exercising are vital for maintaining or losing weight. The quality of sleep you get can affect both of these things. Have you ever felt that groggy feeling after getting a poor night’s sleep? You probably didn’t feel much like moving your body. Making good food choices is also difficult when tired. In fact, the hormone levels of ghrelin (stimulates hunger) and leptin (reduces feelings of hunger) are negatively impacted by lack of quality sleep.8

5. Support your memory and concentration

Woman on a laptop

As we get older, it’s common to worry about memory decline. Sleep deprivation makes it more difficult to concentrate on any given task. Fortunately, sleep is one tool that actually supports your brain and memory.In fact, an article published by Yale Medical School draws several connections between appropriate amounts of sleep and the proper formation of long-term memories. Likewise, when running on adequate sleep, we can focus and store short-term memories much more effectively while awake.

6. Patience and empathy with others

Happy elderly couple

Most people want to put their best selves into the world daily and lead with kindness. However, when sleep deprived, it can be tough to think of others’ needs. Feeling negative, stressed, and unable to concentrate can all make empathy more challenging. The Journal of Psychology has even published research that focused on the significant relationship between an individual’s quality of sleep and their capacity for empathy.9 Sufficient sleep will aid you in being the best version of yourself, with the ability to have more patience with others.

7. Important for safety

Senior women driving a car

As you can see by now, sleep is key in supporting physical and emotional health. Surprisingly, your sleep quality can also impact other areas as well. Driving while tired is actually very dangerous. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that in 2017 91,000 police reported crashes and 800 subsequent deaths involved drowsy drivers.10 Driving while well rested is better not only for you, but also for the safety of everyone else on the road.

To Sum It All Up

Sleep is crucial for the health and happiness of all human beings. What is surprising is the role it can play in physical, emotional, and social health. Getting adequate sleep has the possibility to leave you happier and healthier.

Citations
  1. MedicalNewsToday. (2023, Jan 6). Why sleep is essential for health.

  2. Sleep Foundation. (2023, Feb 23). How To Determine Poor Sleep Quality.

  3. Shin, J. E., & Kim, J. K. (2018). How a Good Sleep Predicts Life Satisfaction: The Role of Zero-Sum Beliefs About Happiness. Frontiers in psychology9, 1589. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01589

  4. Mayo Clinic. (2018, Nov 28). Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?

  5. Wu Zheng SM, Chen JW, Huang YM, Chen WM, Wu SY. Effect of sleep disorders on the risks of cancers and site-specific cancers. Sleep Med. 2022;100:254-261. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2022.08.014

  6. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, Oct 14). Heart Disease Facts.

  7. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, Jan 4). How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health?

  8. Williamson AM, Feyer AM. Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occup Environ Med. 2000;57(10):649-655. doi:10.1136/oem.57.10.649

  9. hogrefe. (2016). The Relationship Between Quality of Sleep and Emotional Empathy.

  10. NHTSA. (2023). Drowsy Driving.

Written By:
Taylor Shuman
Senior Tech Expert & Editor
As SeniorLiving.org’s tech expert and editor, Taylor has years of experience reviewing products and services for seniors. She is passionate about breaking down stigmas related to seniors and technology. She loves finding innovative ways to teach seniors about products and… Learn More About Taylor Shuman
Reviewed By:
Matthew Clem
Expert
Matt graduated from Bellarmine University’s School of Nursing and Clinical Sciences in 2011 and began his career in Louisville, Kentucky, as a registered nurse. He quickly realized his passion for the senior population, focusing on the long-term care of chronically… Learn More About Matthew Clem