Night owls, take note – new research offers even more reasons why adopting good sleep habits, at every age, is essential for your physical and emotional wellbeing.
There have been plenty of studies done on the importance of sleep as the brain develops in childhood and in early adulthood, but new research from the University of California, Berkeley, also reveals why sleep for the brain is so vital as we age. The research shows that unmet sleep needs in the elderly elevate their risk of memory loss, and a wide range of mental and physical disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and strokes.
“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” says Professor Matthew Walker, who leads the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the university. “We’ve done a good job of extending life span, but a poor job of extending our health span. We now see sleep, and improving sleep, as a new pathway for helping remedy that.”
Walker also warns that reaching for a sleeping pill will not help. “Don’t be fooled into thinking sedation is real sleep. It’s not,” he says. The brain needs to experience the full sleep cycle because those “parts of the brain deteriorating earliest are the same regions that give us deep sleep,” he explains.