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Staying sharp: Sleep wellby Gary Reading, Sep 2018
It’s important to get a good night’s sleep to help stay fit and healthy, and mentally sharp.
Sleeping well becomes harder as we age. Sleep patterns change, we wake up more during the night, and we tend to wake earlier in the morning.
The Global Council on Brain Health, an independent collaboration of experts offering advice on brain health co-founded by Age UK, has said that we need to make it a priority to get a good night’s sleep in order to maintain a healthy brain and stay mentally sharp in later life. Everyone should aim for seven to eight hours.
It’s common to feel sluggish and under the weather if we don’t sleep well, but you may not realise that poor sleep on a regular basis leaves us at a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and fall-related injuries and cancer.
Take a look at our simple tips below to help make sure you get the right amount of sleep every night to keep your body healthy and your mind sharp.
Top tips for good sleep
- Get up the same time every day
- Expose yourself to natural sunlight during the daytime
- Don’t drink alcohol to help you to sleep
- Try and eat dinner around three hours before going to bed
- Don’t drink coffee after lunch time
- Don’t look at an electronic screen of any kind after you get in bed
- Avoid using over the counter sleep preparations
- Wear socks to keep warm in bed
- Keep pets that disturb sleep out of the bedroom
- Avoid arguments with your partner before going to bed
- Limit afternoon naps to 30 minutes
A healthy mind
It’s not all about getting the right amount of sleep: there are lots of things we can do to help ourselves stay sharp in later life.
- Keep active. Regular exercise is linked to healthier brains and sharper thinking skills in later life.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking is linked with having a thinner cortex, the brain’s outer layer that is crucial for thinking skills.
- Eat a healthy diet. A Mediterranean-style diet is linked to better brain health as we get older.
- Take up a new activity. Doing things we’ve never done before might improve thinking skills in later life.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight may be a risk factor for decline in thinking skills.
- Get regular health check-ups. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are associated with a higher risk of decline in thinking skills. A doctor can tell you if you have any of these conditions.
- Learn another language. Learning, and using more than one language, is linked with better thinking skills.