Why You Suck At Sleeping
When you were younger, you probably slept in until noon with no problem. But as you’ve gotten older, you may have noticed that quality shuteye is a little harder to achieve.
While research has shown that older people sleep less, it’s not because they need less sleep. Instead, it’s due to age-related brain changes that keep them from getting the shuteye they need, a review published in Neuron argues. And that can lead to some serious health implications.
Falling into a deep slumber requires slow brain waves and fast ones called sleep spindles, both of which become less readily available with age. On top of that, the neurochemicals that help us doze off and wake up aren’t there when we need them, leading to daytime drowsiness and nighttime tossing and turning.
This decline starts as young as our 30s, and the resulting sleep deprivation can leave us more prone to memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, heart disease, and other physical and psychological problems, the researchers write. (Five guys who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s before age 60 tell you what it’s like.)
“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” said senior author Matthew Walker, Ph.D., a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience, in a press release.
The upside? Getting more and higher-quality sleep could halt the effects of aging. Some studies show that treating sleep problems with non-pharmacological therapies like transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) slows physical and cognitive decline.
If you want to reduce the damage of poor sleep as you age, the researchers warn against relying on sleeping pills, since they don’t provide the benefits of natural sleep. Spending more time under the covers may not help either—it’s more about how well you sleep.
A few proven strategies to deepen your sleep are visualizing relaxing scenes, loading up on Vitamin D, and resisting the urge to nap. If you’re not sure how well you’ve been sleeping, a sleep monitor can enlighten you.