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The Importance of Sleep

As we get older, one of the most common and well-known changes due to aging is the amount and type of sleep that we get. As babies, human beings sleep for what seems like outrageous amounts of time (just not on the right schedule!). As we get older, we start to adapt to a typical sleeping schedule: go to bed after dark, wake up in the morning. But what continues to change is just how much sleep we actually get.

Sleep duration is a very strong indicator of future health issues and a great measuring stick for overall current health. “How are you sleeping?” many doctors will ask their patients during their annual checkups. Quality and duration of sleep is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and unfortunately it sometimes seems to fall by the wayside for those of us with busy lives or stressful situations.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s hospital surveyed a large group of 65 or older adults to determine their sleep habits and overall health. What they found was interesting. Better sleep leads to a significantly lower risk of elder health complications such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and overall mental clarity. In fact, the risk for dementia for people who sleep five hours or less a night is double than for those who sleep for eight or nine hours. Clearly, sleep is an important part of staying healthy in our later years!

Determining sleep patterns and recognizing health issues with sleeping prior to them becoming a major problem is one of the responsibilities of geriatric care managers. Here at Senior Steps, our geriatric care managers work very closely with all of our clients to facilitate their continued health and lifestyle. Paying attention to our clients sleep habits is a critical part of our overall care management.

We’ve all had times where we had difficulty falling asleep or stayed up too late the night before having to work early and felt the consequences. But not getting enough sleep is more than just feeling drowsy and tired the next day. Not getting enough sleep, especially for elders, can exacerbate health problems and significantly hinder quality of life. Much like we tell our rambunctious younger children: Go to sleep!

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