"I can't remember when I last had a good night's sleep." Turns out those two problems are related: older folks (or anyone) whose sleep lacks high quality deep 'slow wave' sleep actually have impaired memory function because of their poor sleep quality. We have all heard that it is important to dream, or spend time in the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, and recent research demonstrates the value of high quality, non-REM, deep sleep. High quality slow wave sleep is what fills those hours of sleep that feel deep, refreshing, and free of dreams. Interruptions in that sleep, common as we age, provide that night-time experience of seeing the clock at 2 a.m, 3:30, and then 5:00 - when you wonder if you just shouldn't get up. Occasionally, giving up on sleep at that point drops the sleeper down into a delicious and restorative couple hours of sleep that provide far more benefit than one would expect.
The lifestyle interventions perhaps best associated with prolonged slow wave sleep are vigorous exercise during the preceding day, several times a week, and the maintenance of a consistent sleep schedule. Avoidance of excessive evening alcohol also increases the likelihood of a good night's sleep. For some people, the simple sleep suggestions listed here for insomnia restore healthy and deep sleep. Watch for a future newsletter article on some recent innovations in sleep maintenance and slow wave sleep enhancement.