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Get enough good sleep to stay mentally sharp in later life

Published on 15 February 2017 10:00 AM

New expert report shows poor sleep can damage your brain health.

A new report by world-leading experts from the Global Council on Brain Health, an initiative jointly convened by the Age UK and the AARP says that as we age we should make it a priority to get the required amount of good sleep at night in order to maintain a healthy brain and stay mentally sharp in later life. Everyone should aim for seven to eight hours

Sleeping well will become harder as we age; research shows that our sleep patterns change, so we become more vulnerable to waking up during the night and earlier in the morning.

Feeling sluggish and under the weather is a common experience if we don't sleep well, but there is less awareness of the fact that those of us who have chronic, inadequate sleep on a regular basis are at higher risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, fall-related injuries, and cancer.

Factors that can disturb sleep in older age can be environmental, such as the temperature of a bedroom, or related to lifestyle factors such as eating late or taking certain medications. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are also more common in later life and ‘deep sleep' decreases in adults between the ages of 30 to 60.

James Goodwin, Chief Scientist at Age UK, said: Sleeping is something we all tend to take for granted, but we really have to wise up to the fact that getting the right amount of good sleep is crucial as we age, helping to protect us from all kinds of problems that can affect our brains as well as our bodies. The message is that in order to stay mentally sharp in later life - something we all care passionately about - take care of your sleep.

'This Global Council report on sleep contains some excellent practical tips, all of them based on the best, most up to date evidence available from right across the world. It points out, for example, that letting your dog or cat sleep on your bed at night might be nice for them but if they disturb you it would be much better to shut them out!

'In addition, many of us spend a lot of the day looking at screens on our phones, tablets and PCs, and then at the television in the evening, but to help us to sleep well it is better not to do any of these things once we get into bed.'

The report includes a number of tips for people from middle age onwards to employ throughout the day to improve the quality of their sleep which include:

• Get up at the same time every day

• Expose yourself to natural sunlight during the daytime

• Don't drink alcohol to help you to sleep

• Try and eat dinner approximately 3 hours before going to bed

• Don't drink coffee (caffeine) after lunch time

• Don't look at an electronic screen of any kind after you get into bed - tablet, phone, laptop, etc

• Avoid using over the counter sleep preparations

• Wear socks to keep your feet warm in bed

• Don't sleep with pets in the bedroom!

• Avoid arguments with spouse or partner before going to bed!

• Limit afternoon naps to less than 30 minutes


Media contact:

Lauren Connors

Tel: 020 3033 1628


Out of hours: 07071 243 243


Notes to Editors:

• The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts from around the world working in areas of brain health related to human cognition

• The GCBH is convened by AARP with support from Age UK to offer the best possible advice about what older adults can do to maintain and improve their brain health.

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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