I haven’t slept this good since I was in my early teens, and the solution was fairly simple.
I’m grateful to have figured out how to sleep better before it was too late, because not getting enough deep sleep can result in a host of health problems!
Earlier this week, a newly published paper in the Nature Communications Journal caught my attention. It covered the association between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease.
The University of Paris researchers were all experts in the epidemiology of aging and neurodegenerative diseases. They did a 25-year follow-up of nearly 8,000 participants from the Whitehall II study of British civil servants.
They made a strong case for the necessity for adequate sleep. The researchers found that the middle-aged participants who slept fewer than six hours nightly instead of seven had a 30-percent higher risk of developing dementia.
Another study from 2019 found a similar correlation between lack of sleep and early Alzheimer’s disease but emphasized the need for deep sleep.
Not getting enough deep sleep as we age can have long-term negative consequences. In a study from 2017, researchers from the University of California-Berkeley found that as we age, the first regions of our brain to deteriorate correlate with the regions responsible for deep, restorative sleep.
“The parts of the brain deteriorating earliest are these same regions that give us deep sleep,” noted study co-author Bryce Mander in a news release.
How Can You Remedy Not Getting Enough Deep Sleep?
Getting enough sleep throughout life is critical, and getting enough deep sleep is especially so. But if you’re not getting enough deep sleep, how can you remedy the problem?
At best, sleeping pills are a short-term solution.
Quoted in the same news release, the Berkeley study’s senior author Professor Matthew Walker explained that “Sleeping pills sedate the brain, rather than help it sleep naturally.”
So sleeping pills aren’t the answer to not getting enough deep sleep, and neither, it seems, are sleep trackers.
According to a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sleep tracking devices might actually disrupt sleep.
Chicago-based researchers highlighted case studies revealing how the devices increased both sleep anxiety and sleep disturbances.
Sleep trackers may have limited benefits, but too often, their data doesn’t match a person’s actual sleep behavior. When someone trusts a sleep tracker over their own subjective experience, there’s a problem!
A 2013 study found that sleep trackers were 80-percent accurate when measuring sleep duration, but inconsistent in measuring sleep quality.
Much more recent research pitted these devices in a head-to-head battle with the polysomnography (PSG) sleep assessment technique.
Thirty-four healthy young adults spent three consecutive nights in a sleep lab, having their sleep monitored by the reliable PSG and seven sleep devices.
The four wearable devices included the Fatigue Science Readiband, Fitbit Alta HR, Garmin Fenix 5S. and the Garmin Vivosmart 3.
The three non-wearable devices were the Early-Sense Live, the ResMed S+, and the SleepScore Max.
The findings, published on December 30, 2020, supported those of the 2013 study. The devices accurately measured the times of sleep onset and waking. However, they were highly inconsistent in determining sleep stages.
Not Getting Enough Deep Sleep Has Meaningful Health Consequences
Deep sleep matters, because the wide-ranging health effects of not getting enough deep sleep are genuinely alarming.
A 2018 study on the importance of sleep regularity concluded that an irregular sleep schedule in older adults (aged 59 to 78) contributes to a significantly higher chance of:
- coronary heart disease
- stroke death
- atherosclerotic death
- congestive heart failure
- deep vein thrombosis
- pulmonary embolism
- elevated blood glucose
- severity of depression
and perceived stress levels.
But, if pills and sleep trackers aren’t the answers to not getting enough deep sleep, what is?
My list of possible solutions includes:
- Eating healthy plant-based foods.
- Not taking your cell phone to bed.
- Writing a to-do list before bedtime.
But one quick fix has helped me more than anything else.
Waking up at the same time every morning, seven days a week. I found this advice in Dr. W. Chris Winter’s excellent book, The Sleep Solution.
The biggest challenge was making a resolute decision to never sleep in on the weekends or alter my morning routine even after a late evening. Once this decision was made, it was an overnight fix.
Now, I’m sleeping better than ever. After struggling with sleep problems for years, I’m happy to say it’s in the past. Committing to a regular sleep schedule is much more than a convenience.
It’s a necessity for anyone who wants to live a healthy life!