We have all heard about the importance of sleep. While we all crave and 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.
The quality of sleep can be equally crucial for sleep 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 range from stress to sleep apnea to an undiagnosed sleep disorder to poor habits.2 Older adults who struggle with sleep quality should look into ways to correct this problem.
Here are some reasons why you should look to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
1. Improve your mood
Finding joy in the little things in day-to-day life can leave older adults happier and more satisfied with their lives. 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. One study found that subjects who slept well actually had higher life satisfaction.3
2. Fight off illness
You may have heard of the benefits of sleep for your immune system. It's true that sleep helps aid your body in fighting off viruses and other illnesses. Afterall, your body needs rest in order to recover. Inadequate sleep can prolong illness and injury recovery.4 You may be surprised to learn that sleep can also help prevent cancers, as 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 one preventive measure.
Pro Tip: Many seniors have a hard time getting comfortable at night. Adjustable beds are a great solution. We compare some of the best brands on our guide to adjustable beds.
3. Lower your risk of heart disease
Heart health is important. After all, cardiovascular 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 prevent heart disease. Doctors can also prescribe medications to adults to aid in heart health, such as blood pressure and cholesterol medications. Sleep is a lesser-known heart disease prevention tool. Heart health conditions connected with sleep include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.7
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
Many older adults struggle with weight management. As we age, it seems that our metabolism slows down, so weight management can be 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, individuals who don't have enough sleep actually produce more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.
5. Support your memory and concentration
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. Likewise, we can focus on tasks at hand much more effectively when running on adequate sleep.
6. Patience and empathy with others
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 groggy, negative, stressed, and unable to concentrate can all make empathy more challenging. 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
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, people who go longer times without sleep show driving performance comparable to someone under the influence of alcohol.8 Driving while well rested is better not only for you, but also for the safety of everyone else on the road.
Pro Tip: Looking for other ways to stay active and well? Check out our guide on boosting your health.
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.