8 Incredible Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults

The benefits of a good night’s sleep span all age brackets, and they remain important as we age. Older adults still need quality sleep but this can be difficult. Elderly not sleeping at night, Consequences of lack of sleep in elderly, and Why is it harder to sleep when you get older? are all popular internet searches, one indication of the prevalence of this problem.

We all recognize how much better we feel after a good night’s sleep, but we often overlook the benefits for our long-term health and well-being. Modern society often glorifies “burning the candle at both ends”, but that idea is falling flat as our understanding of sleep evolves. In fact, according to an article available on PBR.org, sleep may be as important to health in old age as diet and exercise. The report notes that the benefits of a good night’s sleep include reduced inflammation and slowed biological aging. Such benefits make great sleep highly desirable!

Unfortunately, sleep patterns change as we age, and older adults often find it difficult to sleep. Seniors may even suffer from insomnia. There are also cases where an elderly person dozes through the day and seems to sleep too much. However, according to a study from the National Institute of Health, seniors who doze during the day often do so because of inadequate sleep at night. This is often the result of poor sleep hygiene, which leads to inefficient, ineffective sleep.

Fortunately, there are many ways to sleep better at night, but it is important for a senior to understand why they are focusing on quality sleep as a goal. This article will look at eight incredible benefits of a good night’s sleep for seniors.

Table of Contents

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults #1: A Good Night’s Sleep Benefits Overall Mood and Mental Health.

According to this Harvard Health article, sleep and mental health are closely related. There can be vicious or positive cycles between the two. Poor sleep can contribute to mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, but the reverse can also be true – mental health problems can contribute to poor sleep.

Fortunately, quality sleep can reduce these mental health symptoms, leading to better sleep. It is important to address the issue if you or a loved elder is not sleeping at night. It can be difficult to acknowledge for seniors to acknowledge the need for help in these situations, especially if they don’t want to admit to any age-related decline. Reminding a loved one of the potential to establish a virtuous sleep cycle may help to convince them to seek help.

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults #2: Quality Sleep Helps to Balance Your Metabolism and Limit Weight Gain

According to an NIH study, sleep deprivation can slow metabolism, which makes it harder to maintain a stable weight. In addition to the study on metabolism, another NIH study showed that short sleep duration is associated with elevated levels of the hormone ghrelin and reduced levels of the hormone leptin. The net effect of these shifts in hormones is to increase your appetite. That means that inadequate sleep can cause you to seek out food at times when your metabolism is sluggish.

Weight management is important at any age, and seniors are no exception. Proper sleep can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults #3: Proper Sleep Reduces Your Risk for Many Chronic Conditions

According to PRB Resources, disturbed sleep and excessive sleep are associated with increased inflammation markers. These inflammation markers, specifically C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), are linked to several chronic conditions.

On the other side of the pillow, one benefit of a good night’s sleep is reduced inflammation. Reductions in inflammation have a positive effect on an individual’s risk for diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, another reason it is important to address sleep problems in the elderly. 

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults #4: Consistently Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Can Reduce Fall Risk

According to the National Institute of Health, a sleepy individual is more likely to fall. Elderly individuals are already at higher risk of suffering a costly injury in a fall, and the risk only rises if the senior is not alert. It is important for seniors to remain aware of their surroundings. That depends on getting a good night’s sleep.

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults #5: Sleeping Well Improves Memory

An article recently published on The Sleep Foundation’s website noted the growing consensus that memory consolidation takes place during sleep, as well as the fact that insufficient or excessive sleep can affect memory processing and other cognitive processes.

For many seniors, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive conditions are a significant source of concern. With our very memories at stake, it is essential to get proper sleep at all ages and to continue good habits into old age.

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults #6: A Good Night’s Sleep Enhances Brain Health through Better Elimination of Toxins

If we aren’t sleeping well, toxins and other potentially harmful debris accumulate in our brains. This isn’t only from external sources; the waste products that naturally occur as we use our brains also need to be cleared out.

A Science Daily article detailed this process, profiling new research that indicates the depth of sleep impacts our brain’s ability to efficiently wash away waste and toxic proteins. This cleanup process, handled by the glymphatic system, pumps cerebral spinal fluid through the brain tissue to wash away waste.

The glymphatic system works primarily while we sleep, and the deeper we sleep, the better it functions. This is one more benefit of a good night’s sleep, and one more consequence of a poor night’s sleep, in elderly adults.

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults #7: Quality Sleep Increases Alertness and Attention Span During Waking Hours

Insufficient or excessive sleep can interfere with the overall ability of our brain to function effectively. This is detailed in the aforementioned article on The Sleep Foundation website.

Poor sleep can affect cognitive processes such as learning, focusing, and decision-making skills. It can also lead to reduced emotional control. All of this can make it more difficult for a senior to navigate their day, whereas a good night’s sleep can have a positive impact on these areas.          

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep for Older Adults #8: A Good Night’s Sleep Supports an Active, Engaged Lifestyle

Without quality sleep, we lack the energy to enjoy life. As the first seven benefits of a good night’s sleep for seniors have shown, sleep benefits nearly every aspect of an individual’s life. It has positive impacts on physical, mental, and emotional health, which are all areas of concern as we age.

When we sleep well, we are happier, respond more quickly, and make better decisions. A virtuous sleep cycle gives us greater energy to stay active and enjoy life during the day, which in turn leaves us ready for another good night’s sleep.

Next Steps

The importance of sleep to the overall health of aging adults, and humans in general, has been poorly understood. Fortunately, the latest science is transforming our understanding of how quality sleep sets us up for a more active, engaged, and happier life. 

Now that you understand the benefits of a good night’s sleep for older adults, you will want to learn best practices to optimize sleep quality. For some excellent tips on how to improve sleep, you can check out the work of Dr. Matthew Walker at his website, The Sleep Diplomat, or Sleep Smarter, an excellent guide to sleep authored by fitness and nutrition expert Shawn Stevenson.

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Kathy’s mission is to use the Age Better Resources platform to share the knowledge she acquired over many years to help seniors understand how they can optimize their later years. Her hope is that the content on this site, the associated services or products available, and the experts she will share, will help you or your loved ones create a plan to live as many good days and years as possible. If immediate or more personalized support is needed, personal consultations are available.

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