We all know we need to sleep, but recent research has underlined the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. This is critically important for caregivers who aren’t sleeping well because of the demands made on them (by their loved ones), or those who can’t sleep well because of stress.
For starters, research coming out of Sweden indicates that the six-to-eight-hour rule needs to be ditched in favor of more hours of sleep (like seven-to-ten). This was based on studies that showed a five percent spike in heart attacks during spring when clocks are set ahead and we lose an hour’s sleep. People at risk can be pushed over the line into a cardiac event by the loss of that one hour. Clearly, sleep is important to our overall health.
A new study from University College London School of Medicine indicates that people who aren’t getting enough sleep have brains that age faster than their well-rested counterparts. The study, which was conducted over five years, was reported in a recent edition of AARP Magazine. Researchers first conducted a baseline survey, asking participants how much sleep they get normally. They came back to the group five years later and asked the same question.
Those whose sleep had decreased over the study period “showed an accelerated mental decline during cognitive testing,” the magazine reported. That decline was “equal to an extra four to seven years of aging.” “Sleep regenerates neurons that enable the brain to function optimally,” explained lead author Jane Ferrie, PhD. Oddly, those who reported increased sleep also exhibited cognitive decline, though researchers indicate that decline (and the increased sleep) may be due to depression or some other illness. More research on that issue will likely be forthcoming.
As a caregiver, pay attention to your sleep patterns. If you’re not getting the uninterrupted hours you need at night, take action. Talk to your doctor, even if the issue is stress related. Talk to your loved one’s doctor if their inability to sleep keeps you awake! You can make up a small sleep deficit with a mid-day nap, but be mindful that you need your sleep to stay at your best in giving care.