More than 50 percent of adults over the age of 65 report having sleep problems, such as difficulties getting to and staying asleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic. But a new study has revealed that older adults with irregular sleep patterns are also at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). With CVD linked to multiple other health issues and capable of causing premature death, it’s crucial that seniors do all they can to regulate their sleep.
During the five-year study at the Cleveland Clinic, researchers found that CVD risk was higher in individuals that had the most irregular sleep duration and timings. Seniors are prone to taking multiple naps for varying lengths of time during the day and this is often the result of the different medications that they take. It can, therefore, be beneficial for them to speak to their doctor about switching to natural alternatives where possible. It’s also recommended that they stick to just one nap per day. Research shows that a 30-minute nap between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. is best for seniors and can even help to regulate their nighttime sleep.
Make time to exercise
Sixty-one percent of people over the age of 65 don’t meet the national exercise requirements, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). However, exercise is crucial for both cardiovascular health and better sleep and is a great natural medicine. One study found that high-level exercise improved senior heart function, while another found that moderate-intensity exercise benefited the sleep of older individuals. The good news is that seniors wanting to stay fit and sleep better can easily do so by participating in 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week and by carrying out muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice per week. Walking, going to the gym, or using fitness equipment in the home are all good ways for seniors to work out and should yield great results in just a few weeks.
The researchers also found that CVD was more likely to appear in seniors from ethnic populations with irregular sleep. Although they were unable to determine why one credible reason is that ethnic minorities tend to have unhealthier diets than Caucasians. For example, a 2011 study found that South Asians consume high amounts of saturated fats and little fruit, vegetables, and fiber. Factor in the fact that many seniors don’t eat proper meals and rely heavily on snacks and poor sleep is inevitable. To avoid this problem and potential CVD, seniors of all ethnicities should be consuming a diet high in nutrients, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats from foods such as fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados. These types of foods help to stabilize the blood sugar in the body which contributes to better sleep.
Millions of seniors are prone to irregular sleep, but this is a cause for concern now that researchers have found a link between this and CVD. As such, seniors must actively work to regulate their sleep by making healthy lifestyle choices and skipping their frequent daytime naps.
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Jennifer Trent is a freelance writer and editor. As a former nutrition consultant, her specialist areas include health and nutrition. When not working she loves to read, travel and spend time with her young family.