While it’s important to invest time in improving mental well-being and maintaining a consistent fitness routine, sleep will forever remain one of the most vital factors in our long-term health.
However, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always the easiest thing to achieve. A cup of coffee after a restless night might be enough to get you through the day, but have you ever stopped to think about the impact a lack of sleep could have on your long-term health, especially the way you to get old ?
Whether you’re under a lot of stress or have other outside factors preventing you from getting zzz’s, we asked sleep experts for their tips on how to improve our sleep quality as we age and, therefore, age with Grace. , too.
Why is sleep important for adults?
“Unfortunately, Studies show that our sleep systems begin to weaken as we age, so sleep fragmentation and insomnia symptoms are higher in older people than in younger people,” Dr. Rebecca Robbins, a medical instructor at Harvard Medical School and a sleep specialist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, told Shop TODAY. “Fortunately, for all of us, barring a sleep disorder, small changes can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of our sleep.”
According to Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell, a physician and board-certified sleep specialist in Virginia, the average adult needs about 7-8 hours of sleep per night. However, this may not be the case for everyone.
“The need for sleep is like a shoe size, in that the amount of sleep needed per individual varies,” Holliday-Bell said. “Some only need six hours while others need up to 10 hours.”
How does sleep impact aging?
A 2015 study suggests that a lack of sleep can affect aging on a biological level, as well as increase the risk of chronic disease, due to an accumulation of damage that affects the molecular processes involved in aging.
Although the impact can happen at the cellular level, you can see it manifest in other ways.
“If you don’t get enough sleep, it can definitely lead to early signs of aging, such as increased wrinkles and sagging skin, as well as puffiness and dark circles under your eyes,” Holliday-Bell says. “In addition to cosmetic changes, insufficient sleep can lead to obesity and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and events.”
Expert tips for better sleep
There are a number of steps you can take to improve your sleep quality, from changing your nighttime routine to starting your day with sunlight.
- Keep a consistent bedtime and stick to it: Holliday-Bell recommends going to bed within the same hour each night, which helps boost your circadian rhythm (and makes it easier to fall asleep). Robbins also says you should avoid going to bed until bedtime. “If we spend time lounging in bed, it tells our brain that other things besides sleep are happening in bed, which can increase our risk of insomnia,” she added.
- Enjoy the sun and fresh air all day long: Robbins and Holliday-Bell say exposing yourself to the sun by opening your bedroom blinds or going for a walk can help boost your circadian rhythm. “Sunlight naturally helps you feel more awake and alert,” Holliday-Bell says. “It helps set or further strengthen your circadian rhythm by suppressing the release of melatonin while increasing cortisol, causing the natural alertness that occurs in the morning.”
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the hours before bedtime: Due to caffeine having a half-life of around six hours, Holliday-Bell says you should avoid consuming it after noon. Even after 12 hours, a quarter of the caffeine is still in your system, she said. As for alcohol, Holliday-Bell recommends that you don’t consume it within 3 to 4 hours of bedtime. While the idea of a nightcap may seem beneficial, Holliday-Bell says that once your body processes the alcohol, “it actually creates a paradoxical alert effect that leads to mid-wake awakenings. at night and/or early in the morning, which makes your sleep more fragmented.
- Exercise during the day: Holliday-Bell says regular exercise can help not only improve your mood and reduce stress, but also help you sleep. “Research has shown that those who engage in regular physical activity get more slow-wave or deep sleep at night,” she said.
- Create an optimal configuration for sleep: Organizing a space designed with soothing tones and free of “stressful” objects like computers can help you get a good night’s sleep, according to Robbins. “Make sure you sleep on a mattress and a supportive pillow,” she added. “These elements need to be refreshed to ensure your head, neck and spine are aligned.”
Below, we’ve rounded up bestsellers and expert-recommended finds that can help set you up for a great night’s sleep.
Choices for better sleep
Weighted blankets have long been hailed for their calming effects. Holliday-Bell says they’re a great addition to a sleep routine, thanks to their deep pressure stimulation therapy. “Deep pressure stimulation also helps decrease the release of the stress hormone cortisol and allows for greater release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin,” she said.
Ocushield Anti Blue Light Glasses
Shop TODAY editors have relied on blue-light glasses to help reduce eye strain since the pandemic began, but Holliday-Bell says the frames can also help boost the release of melatonin in your body. “The blue wavelength of light is the strongest inhibitor of melatonin release,” she explained. “For this reason, I recommend using blue light filtering glasses starting two hours before bedtime.”
Boutique TODAY Associate Business Editor Emma Stessman found that waking up at sunrise made her mornings easier. Holliday-Bell recommends a gadget like this for a similar reason: it can gently wake you up from your sleep. “The gradual nature of waking up with a sunrise alarm helps prevent that feeling of disorientation that you get when you’re woken by a traditional alarm,” she told us.
This Real Simple Sleep award winner could be a good choice for anyone who wants to upgrade their mattress without splurging on a new one. It’s made from three inches of memory foam that conforms to your weight and helps relieve pressure.
Robbins says a supportive pillow can also improve a night’s sleep. These alternative down-filled options are the best-selling bed pillows on Amazon right now, with over 115,000 five-star buyer-verified reviews. According to the brand, it is a good choice for side sleepers.
Not ready to get into cardio, but still want to fit some exercise into your day? These popular ankle weights can add intensity to any workout, whether you’re doing Pilates or yoga.
This best-selling sound machine features six soothing sounds, including Thunder Ocean and Summer Night, to help you drift off to sleep. It can be set to automatically shut off after 15, 30, or 60 minutes, so you can fall asleep without worrying about it running all night.
Easily block out light while you try to fall asleep with a plush eye mask. This style features contoured cups to relieve pressure on your eyes and memory foam for added comfort.
According to Robbins, avoiding stressful gadgets at night can help you fall asleep. Snuggling up with a good book is a screen-free way to relax. You do not know what to read ? Book of the Month can help by offering five different titles each month and delivering your pick right to your doorstep.
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