Posted September 15, 2022 | 8:52 AM
A good night’s sleep is one key to a longer, healthier life
Besides signaling the beginning of autumn, September is Healthy Aging Month, a time to celebrate life and the positive aspects of growing older. Aging often comes with a heightened awareness of changing physical and mental health, as well as dietary and social needs.
Hillsborough County Aging Services’ nutrition and wellness team has curated a variety of helpful topics to highlight that are important for healthy aging.
Never underestimate the benefits of a good night’s sleep. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night to stay in good mental and physical health and avoid increased risk of injury. About one in three American adults do not get healthy amounts of sleep, and stress can make the problem even worse.
Aging has its own set of challenges. According to the National Institute on Aging, the belief that a person’s sleep needs decline with age is a myth. While many older adults sleep less, it’s most likely because they have a harder time falling and staying asleep.
When you consider that almost one-third of our lives are spent sleeping, it’s easy to understand why a good night’s sleep is as important to your overall health as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Research shows that poor sleep has immediate effects on your hormones, exercise performance, and brain function. It can also cause weight gain in adults and increase your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and strokes.
And a poor night’s sleep puts at risk more than just your personal health and well-being; it affects those with whom you share the road. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsy driving is a factor in more than 10% of serious traffic crashes.
Consider these tips to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep:
- A late dinner may mean trouble at bedtime. Except for medical conditions requiring otherwise, try to eat your final daily meal two to three hours before you plan to sleep.
- Going to bed hungry isn’t a healthy option, either. The hormone that scientists think makes you feel hungry may cause you to wake up or have a shorter sleep duration.
- A healthy diet means healthier sleep. The same foods that contribute to your overall health – whole foods, complex carbs, and veggies – also make for a better night’s sleep.
- Don’t confuse cravings for hunger. Before you open that snack at bedtime, consider whether you are truly hungry, or simply reaching for food out of habit.
- Stick with a bedtime routine. Even on weekends, try to keep your weekday routine, and unless you work the overnight shift, try not to nap after 3 p.m.
- Avoid late-night coffee or alcohol. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, and alcohol can cut the time you spend in a restful, deep sleep.
- Limit spicy foods before bed. Researchers think the increase in body temperature after eating extremely spicy foods affects sleep quality.
- Exercise is good, but not too close to bedtime. Try meditation, reading, or a relaxing hot bath instead.