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Embrace the Night: Sleep Is Good for You

One of the best things you can do for your health is to do nothing. Sleep on it, in fact.

Embrace the Night: Sleep Is Good for You

A slew of recent studies underscores what we already know, but don’t always practice: sleep is essential for good health. National Sleep Awareness Week (March 3-10) offers a good reminder of the importance of getting your nightly seven to nine hours (the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendation for adults).

Some of the latest evidence that sleep is good includes:

  • Sleep aids with making difficult decisions. People who got a good night’s sleep were better at solving more difficult problems, according to a study published in the journal Memory & Cognition and reported by Science Daily.
  • Insomniacs are more likely to suffer from hypertension. A study of 5,314 people by the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center found the incidents of hypertension were greater among people with interrupted sleep patterns.
  • Sleep helps with weight loss. “Adequate sleep is an important part of a weight-loss plan and should be added to the recommended mix of diet and exercise,” according to a report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Researchers found that “total sleep time and quality of sleep predicted the loss of fat in people enrolled in a weight-loss program.”

A good night’s sleep, according to the latest research, also can make you less sensitive to pain, improve the ability to function for Parkinson’s sufferers and even improve your ability to make better food choices, according to research.

But getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially for older adults.

“A lot of our residents have trouble sleeping as a result of health issues,” says Stephanie Rogers, director of wellness at BrookHaven Retirement Community in Brookville, Ohio. “Restless leg syndrome and certain other conditions can keep them from getting a sound night’s sleep.”

To help residents sleep, Rogers has these suggestions:

  • Exercise
    Rogers encourages residents to take an exercise class she offers Monday through Friday. “Exercise promotes good sleep in so many ways: you expend your body’s excess energy, it calms the body and you tend not to have as many of the ailments that keep you up at night," she says.
  • Hydrate (but not late)
    “I have residents tell me they get up every hour to go to the bathroom,” says Rogers. “I suggest they don’t drink anything after a certain time each night.”
  • Make sure your room is dark
    “Even the light from an alarm clock can keep you up,” Rogers says. “Turn it to face the wall.”
  • Relax
    Rogers suggests a relaxation technique she uses to wind down at the end of her exercise class. “It involves deep breathing and relaxing your body, from your head to your tip toes.

“By the time you get to your toes,” she adds, “you should be asleep.”