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September 01, 2020 sleep-656286224_feature.jpgSleep is an essential part of human life. It allows our brain and body to perform vital restorative functions and ensure we are fresh for the next day. The sleep cycle is broken into five phases, with deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages providing the greatest mental and physical benefits. As we age, however, our ability to get an appropriate amount of deep sleep diminishes – meaning more time spent either in light sleep or awake. To mitigate a decline in quality of sleep, getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night is recommended for older adults.
 
Achieving a good night’s sleep can help with learning and memory, mood and physical health. During sleep, the brain consolidates information acquired during wakefulness, allowing us to better recall what we have learned once we reawaken. Inadequate or poor sleep can lead to anxiety and agitation during the day; but when sleep improved, one’s disposition will likely return to normal. Lastly, increased cardiovascular, obesity and diabetes risks have been attributed to poor sleep, and underscore the importance of sleeping well.
 
GENERAL SLEEP TIPS
 
In the evening
 
  • Avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol or nicotine, as these can disrupt your sleep schedule;
  • Limit eating and drinking excessively, as these can lead to increased need to visit the washroom at night and disrupt your sleep; and
  • Physically wind down by reading or raking a cool shower, as these can help you relax or regulate body temperature.
 
Before bed
 
  • Try going to bed at the same time each night, as this will help maintain the body’s circadian rhythm.
  • Avoid “screen time” one hour before bed, as this minimizes mental stimulation and encourages relaxation; and
  • Practice deep breathing and visualize yourself relaxing, as this will help prepare you for sleeping.
 
At night
 
  • Sleep in something comfortable, as this can help regulate the body’s temperature and mitigate against night sweats.
  • Have easy access to a light and glasses, if needed, as this can improve safety when waking up at night; and
  • Focus on your breathing if awakened, as this can help you fall back to sleep.
 
Content developed in consultation with Erica Tatham, graduate student researcher on sleep and memory at Baycrest.
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