Aging Successfully: How important is sleep?

  • Wednesday, September 25, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion
Aging Successfully: How important is sleep?

First, I would like to start this column by publicly thanking another faithful reader., who emailed explaining how CDC is actually Centers for Disease Control, not Center. (This was in my August 2019 column: “Centenarian Advice for a Long Life.”)

Because of another recent project I have spent many hours researching the subject of sleep. The available data is mind-boggling. There are more than 25 books written by sleep experts, and that number does not include books on helping infants to sleep better.

In addition, there are countless articles available on the many aspects of sleep.

This information is fascinating and, to the best of my ability, I will share with you a brief summary on how important sleep truly is.

Quality sleep is one of the three foundations required for good health. The other two are proper nutrition and appropriate exercise.

Sleeplessness has become the new American epidemic. A report released by the Centers for Disease Control states that 33 percent of the population does not get enough sleep. Other statistics are 20 percent of Americans have some form of sleep disorder and 17 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities are caused by sleep deprivation.

Unfortunately there are too many causes for this sleeplessness epidemic. Some of those causes are improper diet, stress, physical and mental health concerns, bad sleep habits and becoming over stimulated in the evenings.

In addition, many medications prevent sleep. This includes both over the counter and prescription drugs. Sleeping pills only give a person 10-15 minutes of additional sleep.

Sleep is critical for preventing dementia, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and strokes. The lack of sleep has contributed to vertigo attacks, infertility and psychotic disorders.

Sleep states

Experts used to think there were four states of sleep. Now they believe there are two states, the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state and the NREM (None Rapid Eye Movement) state. The NREM state of sleep has three stages.

In the most general terms REM sleep regenerates the brain and the NREM sleep regenerates the body.

During the REM sleep cycle, where we dream, the brain becomes more active as it processes, organizes and consolidates memories and information gathered throughout the day.

When in NREM sleep the brain slows down as the pituitary gland secretes hormones to help the body to repair and develop. In the NREM sleep stage the cells regenerate themselves, there is more blood supply to the muscles, the tissues and bones can repair themselves and the body strengthens the immune system. The body burns fat in the deep sleep stage, and can help a person lose excess weight.

A sleep expert in Europe discovered how to listen to the brain waves and when in the deepest stage of NREM sleep the long slow waves sound similar to ocean waves.

As I stated earlier, this is a brief overview of how important and beneficial sleep truly is.

There are countless resources and this can be overwhelming. If you desire a better quality of sleep my recommendations are to first talk with your primary care provider. Then go to the library or check out internet resources.

Recently I watched an interview with Matthew Walker, PhD, a professor of neurosciences at the University of California, Berkeley. His book, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams,” was most helpful in my research.

In next month’s column I will share three things a person can do to fall asleep easier, and to stay asleep longer. In the meantime, please email me at and share your own tips for a good night’s sleep with all of us.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award winning poet. Since moving to northeast Olympic Peninsula in 2015 she has been actively involved in creating new opportunities for local authors. She looks forward to connecting with even more writers, and readers living in this area. When not writing, or teaching workshops, Crystal enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family.

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