Sleep: Doing It Right

Sleep: Doing It Right

Sleep: Doing It Right

Routine exercise and a steady diet of nutritious foods play a role in helping the body function well and keeping chronic health conditions at bay. But a consistent lack of sleep can potentially derail the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

A good night’s sleep not only restores the body but plays a crucial role in overall emotional health and cognitive function. But sleep deprivation (not getting enough sleep) and insomnia (a sleep disorder that prevents you from falling or staying asleep) can lead to problems with physical, emotional, and mental health.

Sleep troubles are not just a problem among adults in the United States. For example, Cleveland Clinic reports that about 1 in 3 adults worldwide experience insomnia symptoms. The daytime effects of these symptoms include:

    • Feeling tired, unwell, or sleepy
    • Trouble remembering things
    • Slowed thinking or trouble concentrating
    • Disruptions in work or social routines
    • Mood disruptions, especially irritability
    • Delayed reflexes

But that’s not all. Sleep problems can worsen as you age. One study, published in May 2023 in the journal JAMA Neurology, found that the loss of slow-wave sleep (the third stage of sleep known as “deep sleep”) may increase your risk of developing dementia. During slow-wave sleep, the body flushes out toxic materials from the brain, including beta-amyloid protein, a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

The research team wanted to know whether chronic decreases in slow-wave sleep over time were associated with dementia risk and whether dementia-related processes in the brain contribute to the loss of deep sleep. The team followed 346 participants over 60 who completed two overnight sleep studies, one between 1995 and 1998 and the second between 1998 and 2001. Researchers followed up with the participants over the next 17 years. There were 52 cases of dementia within that time.

The investigators discovered that a one percent decrease in slow-wave sleep each year was associated with a 27 percent increased risk of dementia and a 32 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease dementia. The rate of slow-wave sleep loss accelerated from age 60, peaked at ages 75 to 80, and slowed afterward.

Participants who had a decrease in slow-wave sleep were more likely to have cardiovascular disease, take medications that affect sleep, and carry APOE-e, a gene that increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Results suggest that chronic declines in slow wave sleep, rather than individual differences at any given time, are important for predicting dementia risk,” Matthew P. Pase, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of psychology and neurology at Monash University in Australia, told CNN.

What You Eat At Night Can Affect Your Sleep

A late-night snack may satisfy your hunger craving, but it might stop you from getting a good night’s rest and feeling refreshed the next morning.

Drinking coffee or alcohol and eating certain foods can result in getting little to no sleep.

“If you’ve tried every sleep remedy under the sun and you’re tired of struggling to sleep through the night, it could be because you’re eating the wrong foods before bed,” Cheryl Lythgoe, a nurse practitioner at Benenden Health in the United Kingdom (UK) told HuffPost UK.

According to Lythgoe, some of the worst foods you can eat before going to bed are:

1. Chocolate. This sweet indulgence may be a popular treat, but the delicious delight also has sugar and caffeine, a combination that can keep you up at night.

    2. Cheese. Eating cheese during the day is fine, but avoid it at all costs at night, especially strong or aged cheese. While cheese may not cause bad dreams, it contains tyramine, an amino acid that can make you feel alert.

    3. Spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause indigestion, heartburn, and acid reflux, which can interfere with your sleep. These foods can also elevate your body temperature, making it hard for you to fall asleep.

    4. Sugary foods. Ice cream, cakes, cookies, and anything with high levels of sugar stimulate the brain and lead to restlessness and a night of disruptive sleep.

    5. Salty foods. Whether it’s french fries, potato chips, nuts, or any other foods with high salt levels can affect your sleep by dehydrating you. These foods can also make you feel tired and groggy the next day.

If you want to have a snack on something sweet at night, Lythgoe suggests trying more natural foods, like cherries or bananas, which are “excellent for promoting good sleep and should satisfy that sweet craving.”

Lythgoe also cautions not to eat too late at night and suggests monitoring your portion sizes and avoiding caffeine and refined sugar before bed.

Taking A Stroll At Night

One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your bones, and lower your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease is walking regularly.

While walking can be enjoyable during the day, Dr. Neil Paulvin, a longevity and regenerative medicine doctor based in New York, says walking at night can help you get a good night’s sleep. Studies have found that walking can help you fall asleep faster and potentially improve sleep quality and sleep efficiency (the percentage of time you spend asleep in bed).

“Walking before bed will decrease stress and calm down the sympathetic nervous system to help you sleep,” Paulvin told Fortune Well.
Preparing for a night walk, however, is different than preparing for a day walk, according to Dr. Paulvin, who offers these recommendations for planning a stroll at night:

    1. Take it easy. This isn’t the time for rigorous exercise. Save that for earlier in the day.

    2. Remember, safety first. Walk with a partner. However, if you walk alone, text your route to a friend or family member and ask them to check in on you when you get home. You and your family members can also use locator apps that keep track of your physical location.

    3. Wear reflective gear and a safety light. Keep your distance from traffic whenever possible.

    4. Plan your route and choose a route you know well.

    5. Avoid listening to music or a podcast. “Tech-wise, I’d bring your cellphone but lose the music,” Paulvin said. “Since your sight is inhibited in the dark, you want the best of the rest of your senses.”

Finally, give yourself some time to relax after your walk. Paulvin suggests leaving 90 minutes between the end of your walk and the time you go to bed. “Your core body temperature increases while exercising, and it takes about 90 minutes for your temperature to return back to its base,” Paulvin said.

But avoid watching TV or using smartphones and laptops because these and other blue-light devices can keep you up for quite some time.

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