Not enough sleep diminishes cognitive benefits of physical activity, study claims

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not-enough-sleep(NaturalHealth365)  We all know that physical activity has long been hailed as a crucial factor in protecting against cognitive decline that often accompanies aging.  However, recent research has shed light on an unexpected caveat – the protective effects of physical activity may be negated by sleep deprivation.

According to a comprehensive study spanning a decade, failing to get an adequate amount of sleep, at least six hours per day, can compromise the cognitive benefits of exercise.  The study closely followed participants, observing the combined impact of regular exercise and sleep patterns on cognitive health over ten years.  The startling results provided a new perspective on the interplay between these two critical factors.

NEW RESEARCH finds physical activity and sufficient sleep are needed to slow down cognitive decline

A recent study published in The Lancet has shed light on the potential benefits of physical activity and adequate sleep in mitigating cognitive decline among individuals over 50.  Researchers observed that individuals who engaged in regular physical activity and six to eight hours of sleep each night demonstrated improved cognitive abilities.

While insufficient sleep did not appear to significantly impact cognitive function in physically active participants during the first year of the study, those with short sleep cycles experienced a more rapid decline in cognitive function over the course of the ten-year timeframe.

The study, based on data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), classified participants into three groups based on their sleep duration: short sleepers (less than six hours), optimal sleepers (six to eight hours), and long sleepers (over eight hours).  Researchers assessed participants’ activity levels through self-reports and measured cognitive abilities using specific tests.

Notably, the research revealed that physical activity alone may not fully protect against cognitive decline, especially in individuals who consistently sleep less than six hours per night.  Sleep appears to play a crucial role in maximizing the cognitive benefits derived from physical activity, particularly for individuals over 50.

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The study’s findings highlight the interconnectedness of physical activity and sleep in influencing cognitive health.  Engaging in moderate to high levels of physical activity positively impacted both the quality and duration of sleep, as suggested by the authors.

Moreover, the group with higher physical activity levels exhibited healthier lifestyle behaviors, as they were more likely to avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use and had fewer chronic health conditions compared to those with lower physical activity levels.  These additional lifestyle factors may have contributed to the observed positive impact on cognitive health in physically active participants.  Overall, the research underscores the significance of balanced physical activity and sufficient sleep in promoting cognitive well-being as individuals age.

Tips to increase your sleep time and physical activity

In the past, we have pointed out how insomnia can jeopardize your health, and this article discusses how sleep deprivation can accelerate cognitive decline, including the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  You can take a proactive approach by following these tips for improving your sleep and exercise time:

Increase your physical activity to at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

Avoid large or spicy meals or excess fluids before bed.  This can bring on indigestion or frequent urination that can keep you awake.

Design a proper resting place.  Is your bedroom dark, quiet, and comfortable enough to sleep soundly in?

Avoid exercising too close to bedtime.  Exercising earlier in the day can help you feel more tired by the end of the day without becoming overstimulated late at night.

Avoid napping, which may interrupt your sleep cycle.  Additionally, you should avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other stimulants after dark.  Naturally, these stimulants ought to be avoided all together, if possible.

Stay off your computer and smartphone before bed.  Blue light emitted by electronic devices can suppress melatonin and keep you awake.  (You may also want to consider wearing blue light glasses to counter the effects.)

Do you maintain a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule even when on vacation?  This practice can significantly contribute to ensuring you get enough rest.  There’s a lot of value in the old adage – from Benjamin Franklin: “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” (and, women too!)

Remember that solely making lifestyle changes may not fully optimize the cognitive advantages of physical activity.  Collaborate with your holistic healthcare provider or health coach to create an exercise plan that enhances your sleep duration.  By actively engaging in your mental and physical health, you can stay vigilant for early signs of cognitive decline and potentially even prevent them.

Editor’s note: Find out how to greatly improve your brain health and avoid the threats of dementia.  Own the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Summit, created by NaturalHealth365 Programs.

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