Sleep continues to be a widely investigated topic chased by scientists. We already know sleep is imperative in our functioning and almost all parts of the body including the organs to tissues have been shown to get a positive impact due to sleep. That is why scientists recommend spending one-third of our time on it.

But, it is the brain that has now become a central point of various research regarding sleep. Sleep not only affects the proper functioning of brain-like learning, memory recollection, etc, it also seems to help in the cleaning up of toxins getting accumulated in the brain during the day. The hypothesis is that these toxins may be critical factors behind bad mood, deteriorating mental health, and even Alzheimer's.

Quality Sleep is thus key in your aging journey.


How does age affect sleep ?

Aging and the sleep affair by Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic lists out how your sleep may be affected as you age-

  • Your body clock can shift backwards and you may experience early bed and wake times. It is thus advisable to do your workout in the afternoon or early evening to align with your bodyclock
  • It will take longer to doze off in the bed as you age. Thus, you should try to cut down the usage of device before you go to sleep and wind down with warm bath, herbal tea and some reading.
  • With age, daytime snoozing also increases and napping comes easier. This may affect your night sleep and thus one should try to keep these naps short.
  • The deep sleep reduces as you age. Hence it is imperative to cut back on alcohol and caffeine consumption which inhibit deep sleep.

We are sleeping less and it is affecting us

Sleep deprivation is a problem that steadily increases with age. A study in 2019 by Mohiuddin states 50-70 million Americans are chronically suffering from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity.

Living in urban conditions and increased use of gadgets are disrupting the beauty sleep that is regarded as restorative and beautifying for over 140 years with the same phrase. Blue light emission from the screen disrupts melatonin production which heralds the beginning of sleep. Shift workers and emergency workers suffer even more. The disbalance of natural rhythm intervenes with the body clock and may lead to insufficient or discontinuous sleep patterns.

Living in urban conditions and increased use of gadgets is disrupting the beauty sleep. Image source: Pinterest

The causes of sleep loss are multi-factorial and so are its repercussions especially while proceeding towards the late 50s. Sleep deprivation has drastic effects on our bodies. Skin starts wrinkling faster with dark spots becoming a regular affair.

It's a long held wisdom phrase when they vehemently speak for “beauty sleep”.

With the onset of graying age, hormones can go for a toss, especially for women. Lack of sleep derails this further. Mood swings, irritability, and a lack of motivation are common among sleep-deprived people. Loss of focus and tiredness all-day add to the regime.

The link between dementia and sleep deprivation in midlife has been getting stronger lately. More and more studies show that pent-up toxins may lead to the formation of compounds that cause the onset of dementia. It is only while sleeping that the brain tries to break and remove these toxins.

My brain has too many tabs open notebook alongside a pumpkin, cupcakes and a mug. Part of the Fireside in Autumn Collection.
Photo by That's Her Business / Unsplash

Sleep deprivation also makes your vital organs weaker and your skin and hair dull. Acute sleep deprivation may become a clinical problem leading to stroke, heart failure, and increased blood pressure.


Longer Sleep is Not Quality Sleep

Sleep has been shown to be of types: REM ( Rapid Eye Movement) and Non-REM ( Non-Rapid Eye Movement). REM is the shallow sleep part that occurs when we just go to sleep or are about to wake up. On the other hand, Non-REM sleep is where deep sleep happens.

It is repeatedly shown that deep sleep that happens during the Non-REM stage is critical for brain regeneration.

Sleep mechanism, where deep sleep doesn't happen is a risk indicator of oncoming dementia.

Deep Sleep is critical to brain health, absence of which is a risk indicator of dementia in later life.

Manage yourself to have a Better Night's Sleep

Being aware of the changing dynamics of your body and environment is critical to managing sleep better.

  • In an endeavor to ensure a better sleep schedule, one of the best things one can try is to keep away from devices while you are preparing for sleep. Fixing and then following a sleep schedule is an effective chronology.
  • Sleep in dark conditions and plug in soft music from your favorite playlists.
  • Regular exercises can help but they must be aligned to your body clock and should not interrupt your sleep schedule.
  • Having a warm bath and reading a book before bed also helps to induce sleep naturally.
  • Meditation is a proven and effective way to manage stress, anxiety and lower your breathing rate that can help you sleep.
  • Aromatherapy via essential oil massage or herbal tea can also be effective.
  • Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol that inhibit deep sleep.