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In December, I introduced you to MESH. It’s an acronym that stands for Move, Eat, Sleep, Heal and is what renowned geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas refers to as the key to healthy aging. According to Dr. Thomas, neglecting to do any one of these things can negatively impact our health. This month we will focus on the “S” (sleep).

According to Dr. Thomas, we shouldn’t accept unrestful, unsatisfactory sleep as a natural consequence of aging, because it’s not.

Everyone needs sleep. Sleep is nature’s way for us to recharge. While we sleep, our bodies repair the damage done to our cells during the day; our brains reset their connections that enhance memory and learning; and our immune systems release substances that fight disease and infection. Without quality sleep, our bodies won’t adequately heal; our memories and thinking will suffer; and we will become much more likely to get sick.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), adults age 65 and older need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. To help us get the sleep we need, the NSF recommends we do the following:

  • Establish a regular bedtime and bedtime routine to signal our bodies it’s time for sleep;
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime since they tend to promote wakefulness;
  • Avoid alcohol close to bedtime because it tends to disrupt sleep during the latter part of the night;
  • Limit daytime napping to 30 minutes or less to avoid disrupting our natural sleep-wake cycle;
  • Do at least 10 minutes of aerobic exercise per day to promote higher quality sleep; and
  • Create a cool, dark, comfortable sleeping environment free of distraction to make it easy to both fall and stay asleep.

For more tips and other information on sleep, visit www.sleepfoundation.org.