Seniors, Sleep & Synapses

June 5, 2009 at 5:30 am Leave a comment

image Getting enough sleep is crucial for brain health, and scientists still aren’t exactly  sure why. What we do know is that sleep deprivation hurts our cognitive abilities, affecting our  working memory, executive functions, attention, ability to reason, balance, and even our moods.  Go without sleep for too long, and things deteriorate rapidly, causing mood swings, psychosis, hallucinations, and eventually, death.

The difficulty, of course, is that the older we get, the lower our quality of sleep often becomes.   Many seniors are kept awake by aches and pains, anxieties, and a need for frequent urination.  Some medications cause insomnia, and  sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, even some heart problems can contribute to the problem.

Complicating matters further,  natural sleep rhythms seem to shift as we get older, especially when they were  previously regulated by work and family hours.  Without that external schedule, people may find themselves  naturally   staying up later, or getting up earlier – and trying to fighting those natural cycles can cause insomnia.

A few quick tips for better sleep?

Keep to a schedule.  Even if your schedule doesn’t match the rest of the world, it’s  ok… make it your own, and keep to it.

Get sunlight. Sunlight, especially morning sunlight, appears to be key in regulating sleep patterns. So make an effort to spend time outdoors, in the natural light.

Let yourself nap. Although our work schedules often make them impossible, naps are a natural part of the human sleep cycle, and several studies have shown cognitive function improves when we nap. So don’t fight the inclination as if it were some dreaded symptom of old age, revel in your retired freedom to finally take the naps your body has been craving all of your life.

Exercise. Yes, yet another reason to be physically active… exercise encourages quality sleep.

And if your insomnia is ongoing, or you seem to feel tired during the day no matter what?

See your doctor. There are over 90 different sleep issues that can affect us, and that’s on top of the complications of other diseases and side effects of medications.  You may feel silly complaining about being a little bit tired, but your doctor will understand, and maybe have a few simple suggestions, or even send you to a sleep lab for a fuller diagnosis.

A better nights sleep is definitely worth the trouble of a check-up;  you’ll feel better, function better, think better…  and your brain will thank you.

Entry filed under: Sleep. Tags: , , , , .

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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