How good sleep promotes health
We all know: those who sleep well feel better throughout the day. But a good night's sleep contributes to a healthy life in many other ways. New insights and tools ensure better sleep, and thus, better health.
Not everyone sleeps well. Those who sleep badly will suffer from this not only the next day. Over the long term, a bad night's rest can have far-reaching consequences. It is particularly important to monitor the sleeping patterns of elderly people who require additional care. The importance of good sleep cannot be overestimated.
Why is good sleep so important?
Sleep has been a subject of research among medical practitioners and behavioural scientists for decades. They all agree that sleeping well is important for the following reasons.
- A good night's sleep ensures that we recover optimally. During deep sleep, not only does the body relax, but the brain cells are also less active. Both the body and the brain, therefore, have a chance to recover from the day's activities.
- Thanks to sleep, we learn better and are able to remember things better. The quality of the sleep impacts our memory. Various studies have also shown that good sleep supports learning. For example, test subjects participating in various studies performed better on a test when they had slept while learning and testing period. The precise relationship between sleep and learning, and whether it is deep sleep or REM sleep that aids learning, is still being researched.
- Sleep ensures that we preserve energy. This is a holdout from prehistoric times, when it was not yet obvious that we would have enough to eat every day. In that time, sleep functioned as a way to store energy. Sleep still helps prevent people from wasting energy, because the frequency of the heartbeat and the breathing decreases and the body's temperature goes down.
Serious consequences from a bad night's sleep Everyone knows the consequences of one or more bad nights of sleep. Lack of sleep causes forgetfulness. Moreover, sleep deprivation affects our mood and can eventually lead to depressive symptoms. Sleeping poorly is also detrimental to the immune system. For elderly people who require additional care, good sleep often represents a challenge. Among the elderly, it is relatively common to have poorer quality sleep. Physical discomforts and medications affect a night's rest. For example, many people with dementia often have an irregular sleeping pattern (not sleeping in well, restless sleep, lying awake for a long time) and can, for example, wander during the night. All of this has consequences for care providers. With fewer and few resources, they must ensure that clients receive an optimal night's sleep. Technological aids can help monitor sleep behaviour and, consequently, help improve a person's night-time sleep. The Internet of Things (IoT) also plays a vital role in this. There are various smartphone and smartwatch apps available that can monitor sleep. There are also more advanced applications, such as a smart bed or a smart mattress. These items contain sensors that can record information about the client, such as the lying position, the degree of movement and vital functions such as the temperature and heart rate.
New insights on sleep
Does that mean that everyone should sleep 8 hours nightly? Certainly not. Not everyone requires the same amount of sleep. Moreover, it is not just the number of hours of sleep that determines the quality of the night's sleep. The American National Sleep Foundation recently specified several conditions for a good night's rest. These include: falling asleep within 30 minutes, being awake for 5 minutes not more than once per night and lying awake together for no more than 20 minutes per night. Those who do not meet those requirements are not necessarily poor sleepers. Ultimately, it is about how you feel the next day. Do you have sufficient energy? Are you cheerful and not easily distracted? You probably managed a good night's sleep.
Sleep improvement measures
What steps can you take to sleep well? Naturally, a good bed and a pleasant climate in the bedroom are basic conditions for sleeping well. Theoretically, many other measures are simple, but in practice they can be quite difficult to follow. For example, not drinking alcohol late at night and not looking at screens. Exercising enough during the day, but also resting before bed is important. Other factors are harder to influence. For example, those who experience stress often sleep worse, which then leads to more stress. The temporary and restricted use of sleeping pills can help you sleep better during a stressful situation. Older people have specific challenges when it comes to sleeping.
Understanding sleep behaviour is useful for those wanting a better night's sleep. Several apps measure your activity during the night, so you can see if you fall asleep quickly and if you continue to sleep well. There are now products available that use sensors to determine sleep behaviour. For example, a smart mattress can record whether someone maintains the same position or moves around a lot while sleeping. This is particularly useful when caring for clients who sleep a lot or for clients for whom good sleep is extra important.
 Mens en Gezondheid - Waarom is slapen belangrijk? (People and Health - Why is sleep important?)
 National Sleep Foundation - Aging and Sleep
 National Sleep Foundation - National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations