We all know how important it is to get enough sleep each night. Throughout our lives, we've all felt the benefits a good night sleep can bring, including mental acuity, vitality and a feeling of waking refreshed each morning. Conversely, we'll also know what havoc insufficient sleep can wreak, from grogginess and lethargy, to general grumpiness.
In your youth, you may remember pulling all-nighters for work or study, and perhaps even enjoying the local nightlife with little thought as to what missing out on a few hours of sleep could do. However, for those transitioning into senior living, sleep can become even more important.
Why is sleep so important as we get older?
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), we need those hours of shut eye each night for several reasons, one of which is the consolidation of memories. Another reason our body needs those forty winks is to rejuvenate and repair tissue as well as aid in muscle growth.
Sadly for many seniors, this restorative process can be compromised due to a lack of sleep. While adults between the ages of 26-64 are estimated to need 7-9 years of sleep, for those 65 years and older, 7-8 hours are recommended by the NSF.
By the time people move into retirement communities, they may not be getting adequate sleep, as noted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This is potentially due to the fact that seniors can find it harder to nod off at night, and that once they do manage to get to sleep, it is more shallow and often interrupted.
The NIH believes that these types of factors could also help to explain why some seniors take more frequent daytime naps, when compared to younger people.
What are some of the side effects of insufficient sleep?
In addition to some of the effects we mentioned earlier, a recent study also found that people who don't get enough sleep are four times more likely to catch colds. The insight comes from the University of California San Francisco, where researchers found that this heightened risk of catching a cold arose when participants were sleeping six hours or less each night.
"Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects' likelihood of catching cold," said Dr Aric Prather, who led the study. "It didn't matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income. It didn't matter if they were a smoker. With all those things taken into account, statistically sleep still carried the day."