Episode 69: Shortie — Why Sleep Must Become Your Healthy Aging Priority

So you think you know how a lack of deep sleep affects you?

Unless you follow someone like Matt Walker, the preeminent neuroscientist specializing in sleep, or one of his colleagues around the world, you may miss out on information that will encourage you to make sleep a priority.

And increase the likelihood of aging in good health.

It’s no secret that as we age, regular, sound, sleep seems to elude us unless everything is Goldilocks perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, not too much on our minds, the creaky back isn’t complaining, and on and on.

But, as you’ll find out in this episode, it’s possible to improve your sleep, though it’s not likely to happen overnight. (Couldn’t help myself)

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Why dedicate a shortie to sleep when the internet is full of blog posts and articles on the subject? Because the negative impact of under-sleeping, as researchers call it, is in short supply. But it’s information that can make a difference in how you age, so here we go.

Let’s start with one of Matt’s many thoughts on sleep.

“Sleep is the greatest life support system you could ever wish for. It’s a remarkable health insurance policy. It is largely democratic. It’s free and it’s largely painless.” 

The greatest life support system…

He doesn’t say it’s a good idea, that it’s one of the ways we stay healthy, he says it’s the greatest, and goes on to say it is the foundation upon which all other good health habits rest.

We now know that lifestyle accounts for 70% to 80% of our health and risk of disease. Sleep de-risks us more powerfully than what we eat or how we move. (Those things are mighty important, but sleep trumps their effects.)

And, without proper, deep sleep most nights of the week, it will be harder to lose weight, control cravings, have the energy to move, and stay sharp throughout the day.

To get specific about the weight loss thing, when you under-sleep, 6 hours or less per night, are not as efficient the next day when exercising.

When dieting or calorie restricting and under-sleeping, you lose muscle rather than burn fat.

Cortisol plays a role with insulin close behind. And those two hormones in this instance, are related to stress. Managing stress during the day and or de-stressing before you go to sleep will make a big difference.

Sleep hygiene–creating a routine that you follow every night leading up to sleep– is an important tool in your better sleep toolbox.

It includes things like checking your bedroom for light, temperature, comfort, and noise. (I go into all of them in the podcast)

What about sleeping pills like Lunesta and Ambien? Nix them. You have a higher risk of death, higher risk of dementia if you use them regularly. According to Dr. Walker, “Ambien isn’t like sleep. You’re confusing sleep with a lack of consciousness.

These drugs are termed sedative hypnotics.

“so like hitting you over the head and you’re unconscious, it does not give restorative sleep.” Matt says.

These drugs can also be addictive.

But what if you suffer from insomnia? Get help from a professional if the sleep hygiene tips and herbal supplements like melatonin don’t work.

There are different kinds of insomnia and each has particular types of therapy to resolve. Here’s the best place to start to find a professional specializing in insomnia therapy. That link will take you to a site that describes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, in detail.

Listen to one of Matt’s TED talks, Sleep is your superpower

If you want to learn more about my Power of 5 mini email course, everything a woman over 50 needs to know to create simple healthy aging lifestyle habits–and includes sleep–you can find it here.

Don’t shrug off a few nights of poor sleep if they happen frequently. Even if you’ve always been a 6-hours a night, kind of gal, now is the time to give yourself the gift of more. The 8 hour rule is not something science made up. It’s evolutionarily sound.

And so much of our healing, repairing, restoring, and releasing (the brain takes out the garbage in the wee hours, no noisy trucks involved), takes place in deep sleep.

It’s time to make sleep a healthy aging priority!


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