Knowing how to improve your sleep quality is tantamount to good brain health, keeping you safe from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
In Asia Pacific alone, 23 million suffer from dementia. And that number will grow more than three times by 2050 at an estimated 71 million. But strong evidence shows that the difference between a healthy brain and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common type of dementia, is sleep.
Sleep and Alzheimer’s Disease
Not getting enough sleep in your 50s could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease in your retirement years.
Growing evidence suggests that sleep disruptions and off-beat circadian rhythms might drive the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases.
Scientists believe that in addition to organizing your memories, recharging your batteries, repairing your cells, and maintaining normal bodily functions, sleep is a time for your body to clean up shop.
Two proteins that your body allegedly clears out during sleep are beta amyloid and tau—the same proteins strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Beta amyloid attaches to your neurons and interrupts its function, while tau destroys your neurons. Scientists also suspect there may be other proteins that play a role in the development of AD. And without 7-9 hours of sleep to flush out these harmful proteins, these may attack your brain health and set the stage for dementia.
Sleep is also crucial in fighting risk factors for AD, like:
- high blood pressure
How to Improve Your Sleep Quality
In your 50s, sleep (something our bodies have decided is worth dedicating a third of its life to) becomes much more important. Unfortunately, in a fast-paced society and always running work culture, it has become difficult for many adults to wind down and get much needed rest. Additional responsibilities at home could also take away crucial sleeping hours.
However, if you lose sleep over work at this age, you may not even be able to enjoy your retirement.
So how do you make the most of your 7-9 hours of sleep?
1. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Humans are creatures of habit—and with good reason.
Strictly abiding by a sleep schedule guarantees you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. No more, no less. No matter where you are and regardless of how your day pans out, stick to your bedtime routine.
But what if you end up pulling an all-nighter? Should you skip sleep altogether or sleep as soon as possible?
If something throws you off your groove, make sure to get back to your routine as soon as possible.
And if you can’t fall asleep? Get out of your bed for a while until you feel sleepy. However, in that time, avoid doing anything stimulating that could wake you.
2. Create a Relaxing Sleeping Environment
The goal is to enjoy undisturbed sleep.
Dedicate your bedroom to sleep and intimacy. Lower the temperature and dim the lights before bedtime. Turn on some fragrances if you feel this helps soothe your senses and induces rest.
Make sure your room is quiet. Turn off the TV and the stereo. Put on some ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper or sensitive to sounds.
On the contrary, some find white noise to be as soothing as a lullaby.
Falling asleep at the right time is one thing, but resting at the right place is another.
When you plan your bedtime routine, make sure to avoid anything that could stir you awake. This includes anything that could stimulate your senses. And when you have a sleeping partner, make sure they’re on board as well.
3. Watch What and When You Eat
Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Eating right could also help improve your sleep quality.
Coffee is notorious for keeping you up at night, potentially disrupting your sleep schedule. Have your last cup after lunch. But if you’re particularly sensitive to the energy boosting effects of your dark brew, have it during breakfast.
A glass of wine might make you feel drowsy, but your sleep will be nowhere near restful.
As enjoyable as dinner was, avoid stuffing yourself right before bedtime. Allow around three hours to pass before you hit the hay. That leaves enough time for your tummy to digest your meal, and you stay full and satisfied until lights out.
On the contrary, eat too early and you might feel hunger pangs just when you’re about to lay down.
4. Time Your Naps
Did you know you could be napping wrong?
A nap should only last 20 minutes. This is enough time to wake and refresh you, but not too long that it keeps you from falling asleep at night. Also, you enter deep sleep at the 20 minute mark. And getting up at this phase will only leave you groggy and tired.
When you take a nap, set an alarm and do not hit snooze!
The best cat naps are done in a dark and cool environment—one that promotes peaceful and rejuvenating rest.
Relax—easier said than done.
A hot bath or shower could help you de-stress and wind down. Light up the candles while you’re at it to please your senses.
Feeling anxious for the next day? Plan ahead.
Jot down the things you want to remember, items you need to accomplish, and your objectives for the following day. But after you’ve scribbled them down, let it go and get some rest.
Breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation could also help you manage your stress and improve your sleep quality.
6. Exercise during the Day
Tire yourself out during the day and tuck yourself in at night.
A workout in the morning could energize you for the day and promote restful slumber at night.
Time your workout correctly. Pumping your muscles too close to bedtime might keep you up no matter how physically tired you feel.
Lack of physical activity or regular exercise is also one of the risk factors for AD as well as other risk factors that could cause the same.
7. Choose the Right Mattress
A bad mattress could keep you from getting enough sleep.
In addition to contributing to a bad back, a bad mattress might cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
The best mattress stays cool throughout the night, supports your spine and posture, and allows you to move freely and easily across the surface.
Some mattresses trap heat and envelope you in it. This leaves you breaking a sweat and waking up in the middle of the night.
A mattress that is either too soft or too firm will not promote proper posture. And one without supportive layers could make it difficult to get into a comfy position any which way you toss and turn.
Invest in a mattress. After all, we sleep for a third of our lives.
Science reveals that the difference between healthy aging and Alzheimer’s disease is sound sleep.
Rest and healthy amounts of sleep become much more important in middle age. It prevents modifiable risk factors that could keep AD and other chronic conditions at bay, and gives your body a chance to flush out harmful toxins and proteins.
How do you improve your sleep quality? Share your sleep secrets with us in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.