## Importance of Sleep for Cognitive Health and Exercise
**Researchers find that sufficient sleep is necessary to reap the cognitive benefits of physical activity.**
In a recent study, researchers discovered that individuals who engaged in frequent, high-intensity physical activity but slept less than six hours a night experienced faster cognitive decline compared to those who exercised infrequently. The study, conducted by the Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care at University College London, followed nearly 9,000 adults over a 10-year period. Participants who had higher levels of physical activity and slept between six and eight hours per night demonstrated better cognitive function as they aged. On the other hand, being less physically active and experiencing poor sleep were independently associated with worse cognitive performance over time. The study, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal, highlights the importance of considering sleep and physical activity together for cognitive health.
**Key Findings from the Study:**
– People who engaged in higher levels of physical activity and slept between six and eight hours per night had better cognitive function as they aged.
– Lack of physical activity and poor sleep were independently associated with worse cognitive performance over time.
– Sleeping less than six hours a night was linked to a faster rate of cognitive decline.
– Highly active individuals in their 50s and 60s who slept less than six hours a night experienced more rapid cognitive decline compared to better sleepers.
– However, the cognitive benefits of exercise on the brain were maintained in individuals aged 70 and older, despite short sleep.
**Importance of Sleep for Overall Health:**
While it is a common myth that six hours of sleep or less is sufficient, research suggests that most individuals require more sleep for optimal health. Short sleepers have a higher risk of stroke and are more likely to develop heart disease and other chronic conditions when combined with factors like diabetes or high blood pressure. It is crucial to prioritize sleep and seek help from a sleep specialist if experiencing insomnia or other sleep disorders.
**Healthy Sleep Habits to Try:**
– Transform your sleep environment by keeping the bedroom cool (between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit) and free from distractions like TV or work.
– Avoid exposure to blue light from mobile phones or laptops before bed, as it signals the body to stay awake.
– Limit caffeine intake in the afternoon and avoid using alcohol as a sleep aid, as it disrupts sleep quality.
– Establish a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it, training your brain to sleep and wake at specific times.
– If unable to fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and engage in a quiet activity until feeling sleepy again.
Remember, prioritizing sufficient sleep is essential for cognitive health and overall well-being.