What a difference a good night’s sleep makes! When I get my “eight” I feel refreshed, motivated and have tons of extra energy. But like most Americans, that “eight” is sometimes out of my reach and no wonder -- we get busy, there are things to do, people to talk to, even shows to watch! But like going to the gym or having a side of greens, sleep should be part of a pro-active aging lifestyle, and for good reasons.

A recent study looked at sleep habits and heart disease. The results were amazing - seniors who had poor sleep patterns had as much of a 27% increase in risk for arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) to the brain. Poor sleep = less oxygen to the brain = bad news.

Fascinating stuff and really scary. I feel like heading to take a nap right now! The amount of sleep we need varies by age. School children need at least nine, while adults can get by with seven or eight. Eight hours - that’s a third of the day. Seems like a waste of time, right? Think again. The eight hours of sleep allows cells and organs to rest and recovery after a day of heavy use. It allows tissues time to repair and rejuvenate.

Other studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to diabetes, obesity, decreased immune system response and even early death. The Centers for Disease Control now calls insufficient sleep a public health problem as it not only can affect the individual but sleepy driving can affect anyone on the road. Yikes!

Here are a few tips for getting your “eight”:

Go to bed at the same time each night. Set a “bedtime.”

If you have trouble getting to sleep once in bed, engage in a relaxing activity such as drinking a cup of non-caffeinated tea or reading a book right before bed.

Avoid coffee and other caffeinated (and even alcoholic) beverages before bed.

Nap with caution. Napping can increase energy and rejuvenate our moods, but it’s no replacement for your “eight” and can sometimes make it difficult to sleep when 11 p.m. rolls around.

Not comfortable in bed? Explore different pillow types, blankets and even consider a new mattress for optimal comfort.


Happy sleeping!