We all recognize how great it feels to get a good night’s sleep. But did you know that waking up refreshed does more than prepare you to take on the day? It’s also good for your body. In fact, sleep—especially restorative sleep—is believed to be as important as diet and exercise in maintaining overall health.
Restorative sleep can best be defined as sleep that allows the body to repair itself. It takes place over four distinct stages of slumber, which are classified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as:
Stage 1. During the first phase of sleep, which lasts up to five minutes, the body and brain metabolism begin to slow as they prepare for deeper levels of sleep.
Stage 2. After the initial change in consciousness, muscles begin to relax, breathing and heart rate slow, and brain activity changes. This stage can last for 10 to 25 minutes.
Stage 3. This period is known as deep sleep or slow-wave sleep. Breathing, heart rate, and brain waves slow even further. Deep sleep can last 20 to 40 minutes.
Stage 4. Stage 4 sleep is also known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In REM sleep, the eyes begin to move quickly, brain activity increases to near-awake levels, and dreams become more vivid. REM sleep can last as long as an hour.
We cycle back and forth through the various phases throughout the night. In addition to building energy levels, Stages 3 and 4 sleep are especially critical to restorative sleep. During these times, the body releases hormones that assist in cell growth and repair. Restorative sleep is necessary for regulating nearly all functions of the body, including blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and the inflammatory response.
Unsurprising, a lack of restorative sleep has been linked to a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. These, in turn, can raise the risk of acute events such as heart attacks and strokes. There is also mounting evidence that inadequate restorative sleep makes contracting Alzheimer’s disease more likely.
Restorative Sleep and Senior Health
Restorative sleep is especially important as we age. Unfortunately, it can also be more elusive. Older adults often have more pain or illness keeping us awake at night. We also tend to experience a change in our natural sleep cycles that can reduce the amount of time in slow-wave or REM stages.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is the best way to ensure you get enough restorative sleep. That’s not showering or brushing your teeth, but building a calm sleeping environment, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, and relaxing before you go to bed. Other tips include:
- Get plenty of aerobic exercise during the day.
- Avoid late-afternoon naps.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Avoid the use of electronic devices just before bed.
- Listen to music, read a book, or take a warm bath.
- Keep the bedroom cool, quiet, and dark.
Get Your ZZZs at Cumberland Village
There’s nothing like comfort and security to aid in a restful night’s sleep. Residents at Cumberland Village rest easy knowing they are supported by a caring and nurturing staff, friendly neighbors, and a strong sense of community. Exercise classes and nutritious meals also encourage the restorative sleep residents need for overall health.