This fable could also apply to the length of sleep in aging people. Much like Baby Bear, older people who get “just right” sleep – getting about six to eight hours of quality sleep most nights – seem to delay cognitive decline and keep their brains in shape, according to a study published Wednesday in the newspaper. Brain.
“Our study suggests that there is an average range, or ‘sweet spot’, for total sleep time where cognitive performance was stable over time,” said study co-author Dr Brendan Lucey. , in a press release. Lucey is associate professor of neurology and section head from Washington University’s Center for Sleep Medicine in St. Louis.
The study monitored the sleep of 100 elderly people who were tested for cognitive decline and evidence of early Alzheimer’s disease and found that only those who slept six to eight hours retained their brain function.
If a person slept less than five and a half hours, their cognitive performance suffered, even after controlling for factors such as age, gender, and Alzheimer’s disease. This also applied to people on the other end of the sleep spectrum. If they slept more than about seven and a half hours, cognition decreased.
“Not only those who sleep little, but also those who sleep long have greater cognitive decline,” said co-author Dr. David Holtzman, scientific director of the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders at the Washington University School of Medicine.
âThis suggests that the quality of sleep may be essential, as opposed to just total sleep,â he said in a statement.
Aim for continuous, quality rest
But getting good, restful sleep is more than a number. The quality of sleep you get when your head is on the pillow is also very important. If you wake up frequently to noises or sleep apnea or to use the bathroom, it interrupts your sleep cycle and robs the body of the restful sleep it needs.
In stages one and two, the body begins to decrease its rhythms. Slow heart rate and breathing, drop in body temperature and stop eye movements. This prepares you for the next step – deep slow wave sleep, also known as delta sleep. This is the time when the brain repairs the body from the wear and tear of the day. During deep sleep, your body literally regenerates itself at the cellular level.
A chronic lack of sleep therefore has an impact on your ability to pay attention, learn new things, be creative, solve problems and make decisions.
Unfortunately, as people get older they start to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep without interruption, which can have a huge impact on deeper sleep and brain function.
How to improve deep sleep
The good news is that you can train your brain to sleep better, giving your body more time to spend in both REM sleep and restful deep sleep.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including on weekends, is a great tip for getting your brain to sleep better, experts say.
The REM phase is a lighter level of rest that can be more easily disrupted, so strive for little sound, little light, and cooler temperatures in the bedroom. Remember: the bed should only be used for sleep and sex. TVs and other gadgets that emit blue light, such as smartphones and laptops, have no place in the bedroom.
Avoid fatty and spicy foods before bed so that gastric distress does not wake you up while you are dreaming.
Alcohol is another no-no. You might think it helps you fall asleep, but you’re more likely to wake up at night when your body begins to process spirits, interrupting these beneficial stages of sleep.
Correction: We were wrong about the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. It was Goldilocks who found Baby Bear’s bed “right”.