In our 24/7 society, where we are always on the go… doing, achieving, overcoming, improving (and of course, growing – both in age and in personal development), it is normal for us to sleep less. There is a limited amount of hours per day, and as we do more, we tend to take care of ourselves less. In fact, being so excited about my life-coaching business, I sometimes find myself so energized and “high” from living my passion that I go to bed later than I want, and I end up sleeping 6 hours or less. As I noticed this new pattern in the last couple of months, I thought that it was okay, since I am happy and enthusiastic about life. I was wrong. It is great to do something you love and to be so energized and engaged in it, but our body still needs an average of seven hours sleep per night.
A recent sleep study at University of London checked the effects of sleeping patterns over a five-year period. The scientists found that a decrease in sleep during our middle age affects cognitive function in later life. They measured memory, reasoning, vocabulary, phonemic fluency, semantic fluency and global cognitive status and found that seven hours of sleep per night result in highest scores for every cognitive measure.
One of the findings that really amaze me is that if we sleep too little or too long, it disrupts how we think and can age the brain by up to seven years.
I know some people over 70 who are completely clear, and their brain functions very well. Unfortunately, I’m also watching my dad’s brain getting worse and function less every day as his Alzheimer’s progresses.
What are some simple things we can do to prevent our brain from diminished its function?
Getting enough sleep is definitely one of them.
Senior research fellow Jane Ferrie: ”The main result to come out of our study was that adverse changes in sleep duration appear to be associated with poorer cognitive function in later-middle age. Researchers found the ideal amount of sleep duration of seven hours per night resulted in the highest score for every cognitive measure, followed closely by six hours of nightly sleep.”
So what am I going to do differently?
At this point, I plan to use this knowledge and remember to get enough sleep, at least a few times a week. So the next time I’m too hyper after a fulfilling day of coaching, I’ll make sure I take some down time and do something relaxing before going to bed. This way my energy is balanced, calm and I am ready to have sweet dreams. Starting my “down time” a little earlier (even if it means replying to evening emails the next day) will help me support my intention to sleep more!
How about you? How long do you sleep? What’s your plan?