The term “anti-aging” may conjure up images of expensive wrinkle creams and nutritional supplements, but one of the most impactful ways to keep your mind and body young doesn’t cost a cent: Research suggests that a solid night’s sleep can go a long way to staving off the mental effects of getting older.
Sleep benefits the mind in many ways. Not only does it give your brain a chance to lock in memories so that you’re able to recall things like your child’s first birthday for years to come, it also enhances the ability to memorize new skills. Plus, the sleep you get now may have a long-term influence on your risk for cognitive decline as you age. Adopt these sleep habits to help protect your brain’s health.
Avoid Sleeping In
Snoozing long past your alarm may seem like a self-care treat, but it could backfire. Surprisingly, too much sleep has been shown to have a negative effect on memory. People who sleep for more than nine hours a night have an increased risk of both dementia and Alzheimer’s compared with those who log six to nine. Aim to get the recommend amount of sleep for your age (seven to nine hours for adults ages 26 to 64, and seven to eight hours for people 65 and older).
Sleep interruptions—whether caused by a snoring partner or a noisy neighbor—can hurt your brain health. In fact, people who have restless, poor sleep have a higher risk of cognitive decline than those who sleep straight through the night. If you find that your sleep is often fragmented, try to minimize the disruptions by using a white noise machine or blackout curtains if necessary. Not sure whether you’re waking up throughout the night? Use a sleep tracker to help determine how much shut-eye you’re truly getting.
Look Out for Dementia Signs
While disrupted sleep can contribute to poor memory and cognitive decline, nighttime awakenings themselves may be an indication that you’re already affected by dementia, since mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s is often linked with insomnia or increased napping. Talk to your doctor if you’ve noticed that your sleeping habits have changed. Together, you can discuss whether cognitive decline is playing a role in your lost sleep, and what to do about it.