Advice on how to sleep more healthily as you get older

Sleep becomes harder as we get older, with research showing that we are more likely to wake up during the night and earlier in the morning. A report by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) says the over-50s should be aiming for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to stay mentally sharp in later life.

Senior man sleeping on sofa

The report, ‘The Brain–Sleep Connection’, was drawn up by council members who met to review the latest scientific evidence on sleep and issue practical tips to help older people get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.

James Goodwin, chief scientist at Age UK, which jointly founded the council, says in a statement: “Sleeping is something we all tend to take for granted, but we really have to wise up to the fact that getting the right amount of good sleep is crucial as we age, helping to protect us from all kinds of problems that can affect our brains as well as our bodies.

As we age, our cognitive functioning declines; we might have problems remembering names, forget where we left our keys, or have trouble learning new information. For some older individuals, the decline in cognitive functioning can be more severe, potentially leading to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

According to James Goodwin: “The message is that in order to stay mentally sharp in later life – something we all care passionately about – you have to take care of your sleep.”

A number of things are listed but among the most important are to avoid looking at an electronic screen of any kind after you get into bed, including tablets, phones and laptops.

They advise cutting out alcohol in the last couple of hours of the day, losing some weight if necessary, and keeping your feet as warm when in bed.

One huge problem as we age of course is snoring, but nowadays it can be prevented by the use of a simple stop snoring mouthpiece, or a chin support strap. These don’t need a prescription, are inexpensive, and highly efficient. Those from companies such as SleepPro are medically approved by the NHS and are easily available online. They are even approved for the prevention of mild to moderate sleep apnoea.

After the council was set up in 2015, one of its founding partners, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), carried out a survey which discovered that sleep was the number one topic of interest for the over-50s and that 84% of them wanted to know more about sleep and brain health.

Sarah Lock, AARP’s senior vice president for policy, says in a statement: “It’s normal for sleep to change as we age, but poor quality sleep is not normal.”

A further new study by John Hopkins University in Baltimore brings some good news for older adults who enjoy an afternoon nap, after finding that a 1-hour siesta may improve memory and thinking skills.

Previous research has suggested that napping can improve cognitive performance for older adults, while other research has indicated that daytime napping can improve memory by fivefold.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, an afternoon nap of around 20-30 minutes is best for boosting alertness and mental performance, without interfering with your night-time’s sleep.  The new study, however, suggests that an afternoon nap of around 1 hour is ideal for improving cognitive functioning among older adults.

The study reports that nearly 60% of participants reported engaging in post-lunch napping, with the average nap lasting for around 1 hour. When compared with those who had no nap, the researchers found that participants who had a moderate afternoon nap performed far better in a wide range of cognitive tests.

The answer is to relax, have a suitable nap in the afternoon, and get a good night’s sleep by cutting out alcohol, late nights viewing tablets, phones and computers, and snoring.

John Redfern.


Snoring could be a sign that you need help – but how do you find out?

Snoring can be infuriating if you are on the receiving end. But next time you feel forced to kick your partner out of bed for keeping you up all night, or take refuge in the spare room, bear in mind that anything more than an occasional snore could be a sign they need professional help.

Annoyed wife blocking her ears from noise of husband snoring in bedroom at home

Far from something to be brushed off, these nocturnal noises are rarely benign, as any relevant authoritative health website will tell you. Typically, caused by a combination of physiological and environmental factors, snoring may rather surprisingly harm the body in a number of ways.

There are a number of ways in which it can harm you.

The constant vibration of habitual heavy snoring causes damage and inflammation to the throat, and may be linked to thickening of the carotid arteries, which run up the sides of the neck supplying the head with blood.

Researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, say that this increases the risk of artherosclerosis – the furring of the insides of the blood vessels – and increased chances of stroke. Compared to non-snorers, snorers were found to have significantly thicker arterial walls, an early sign of cardiovascular disease. Surprisingly, those with high cholesterol, diabetes and those who smoked did not have thickened carotid arteries, leading the researchers to state that snoring was the biggest health concern for this group.

Those with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) had bigger problems. It is a disorder that occurs due to the collapse of the airway during sleep and causes loud snoring and periodic interruptions in breathing. It has long been linked to heart disease and a range of other serious health problems.

The condition is thought to affect about five per cent of the world’s adult population to some degree, with 250,000 Britons suffering what is deemed a severe form of it, and higher percentages still in some countries – particularly the USA and some Asian nations. However, in the UK alone, some 25 million people are thought to be habitual snorers, without OSA. Most sufferers are however remain undiagnosed and as a result in danger.

If you’re a heavy snorer it’s important to find out if you suffer from OSA and find appropriate help and advice before it’s too late. There are physical signs that will help to identify this but those who want to be exactly sure would benefit from a Home Sleep Test – a simple, quick, and very inexpensive way to find out the severity of the problem, and discover if you have OSA – or not. Not all snorers have OSA but all OSA sufferers snore.

Those who snore and don’t have OSA will benefit from using an approved stop snoring appliance – dependent on whether you snore through an open mouth or through the nose – and there are preventive devices for both forms that work incredibly well and very fast for most people.

Whether you require a stop snoring mouthpiece, or a chin support strap, you and other members of your family will benefit in many ways from you stopping snoring. Harmony will prevail as the nightly thunder ends, and everyone will benefit from having a better night’s sleep. You’ll wake feeling refreshed and suffer less from daytime tiredness and irritability. Sharing bedrooms is fine once more and your marriage will be on a better footing.

If you’re pregnant it will also help you considerably even if for a short period of time. An earlier study from the same team showed that women who begin snoring during pregnancy are at high risk of increased blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, particularly during the second and third trimesters.

The NHS recommends a sleep study, where your brain waves, breathing, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and movements while asleep are recorded, via the use of a simple oximeter attached to the end of your finger. This is a small item that produces large amounts of data to help you.

Patients diagnosed with OSA from sleep tests are offered a range of options.

If the OSA is severe, this should be followed by CPAP treatment under the supervision of your Doctor. Less severe forms of OSA can to be treated by the use of a ‘mandibular advancement’ device, which holds the jaw forward to keep airways open. This is simpler – but is highly effective and recommended by the NHS for approved selected appliances.

John Redfern


Caring for your mouthpiece is an important part of your dental care

Caring for your mouthpiece is an important part of your dental care

collage of photographs on the theme of dental care and healthy teeth

Just like teeth or dentures it’s important to keep your stop snoring mouthpiece clean and germ-free. The season doesn’t matter.

Hot, humid summer weather brings uncomfortable nights and also needs you take more care with oral hygiene, as germs breed more rapidly. The winter is no different, as central heating can cause bacteria to proliferate.

Regular cleaning and care will not just keep your mouthpiece fresh and pleasant tasting, it will also keep it free from stains if you adopt the right cleaning solution programme.

Equally important is the fact that good appliance care will extend the life of your vital mouthpiece and make the need for replacement less frequent.

Lets not forget that the prevention of germs in this way is vital part of helping you to keep a healthy mouth. It helps you to keep your teeth, and means you need to have less dental treatment. The two main causes of tooth loss are decay and gum disease and the better you prevent or deal with these two problems, the more chance you will have of keeping your teeth for life.

Keeping your oral appliance germ free is an important part of your own personal daily routine to keep your teeth and gums healthy, and as part of a constant strategy to provide improved products to support customers, SleepPro have focused very closely on this important aspect of oral hygiene.

Recently a new liquid cleaner has been added to the range that is specifically formulated with the same antibacterial components as their successful specialist cleaning tablets, Fresh & Clean.

SleepPro Daily Cleaning Liquid is designed for daily use, by applying a small amount of liquid directly onto your mouthpiece and brushing it gently, paying attention to the small nooks and crevices that could harbour debris and bugs. Afterwards rinse it under cold running water to leave it fresh and hygienically clean. Alternatively you can clean your existing mouthpiece regularly with Fresh & Clean tablets. Each pack contains 20 tablets and is ideal for at least weekly use to keep your SleepPro fresh and clean.

Used sparingly, one bottle of Liquid Cleaner will last up to 6 months and can be purchased singly, or with our cleaning tablets, which provides a deep clean soak option for a perfect weekly or bi-weekly cleaning regime.

Recognising the importance of oral hygiene, SleepPro they have also added a special anti-microbial protection polymer in the making two of the most popular and effective appliances.

This protection has now been built into the two latest versions of SleepPro Custom and SleepPro Easifit, named Custom AM and Easifit AM to set them apart from the basic version, and for only a tiny price premium they’ll provide you with complete protection from germs with that mouthpiece. The most important benefit of an antimicrobial additive, aside from offering protection, is that it does not change the product into which it is integrated.

It will not affect the aesthetics of products, it will have no negative impact on performance, and it will not wear off or wash away.

The new AM technology not only makes your SleepPro mouthpiece more hygienic, but keeps it fresher for longer, as well as protecting both the surface of the appliance and helping to preserve a good comfortable fit. It provides long-lasting protection by creating a surface barrier upon which microbes cannot survive and extends the lifetime of the oral appliance.

They’re fully approved by the NHS who regularly issue them direct to snoring and sleep apnoea sufferers in many hospitals – and as well as stopping you from snoring, they’ll now protect you from most germs and infection.

Take good care of your mouthpiece and it will take good care of you.

 

John Redfern


Living near a busy road doesn’t just make you snore – it causes dementia

 

Everyone who considers buying a property near a main road considers the noise problem, but there are worse things to take into count and it has now been strongly linked in a report in The Lancet to higher rates of dementia. Scientists have already found that heavy snoring at night and intense sleepiness during the day are strongly linked to traffic pollution.

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Air pollution has also been shown to increase the risk of snoring, lung cancer, heart disease and asthma and causes 40,000 deaths in Britain annually.

Dementia is a major world problem and growing in severity. At the moment there are 50 million diagnosed cases but the causes that rob people of their memories and brainpower are not yet clearly understood.

People living near major roads have higher rates of dementia, the research published in the Lancet suggests. The researchers who followed nearly 2m people in Canada over 11 years, say air pollution or noisy traffic could be contributing to the brain’s decline. About 10% of cases in people living within 50m of a major road could be down to traffic, the study suggests.

Dementia experts in the UK said the findings needed further investigation but were “certainly plausible”.

The study in the Lancet followed nearly two million people in the Canadian province of Ontario, between 2001 and 2012. There were 243,611 cases of dementia diagnosed during that time, but the risk was greatest in those living closest to major roads.

More than ten million Britons are at a higher risk of dementia because they live near a busy road, scientists have concluded. Those living in big cities were up to 12 per cent more likely to develop dementia as a result of traffic fumes, according to a study of more than six million people. The risk increased with proximity to heavy traffic.

The scientists said that their findings were “of real public health significance” and the results would increase pressure for tougher curbs on pollution. More than 200,000 people a year develop dementia in Britain. One in ten cases in people living near busy city streets could be explained by pollution, according to researchers, who call for homes to be built further from traffic.

“This is an important paper,” says Prof Martin Rossor, the UK’s National Institute for Health Research director for dementia research. He added: “The effects are small, but with a disorder with a high population prevalence, such effects can have important public health implications.”

Prof Tom Dening, the director of the Centre for Dementia at the University of Nottingham, said: “It is certainly plausible that air pollution from motor exhaust fumes may contribute to brain pathology that over time may increase the risk of dementia, and this evidence will add to the unease of people who live in areas of high traffic concentration.

Compared with those living 300m away from a major road the risk was 7% higher within 50m, 74% higher between 50-100m but only 2% higher between 101-200m. The analysis suggests 7-11% of dementia cases within 50m of a major road could be caused by traffic.

One of the report authors from Public Health Ontario, said: “Increasing population growth and urbanisation have placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden.

Our previous research was published in September last year, and demonstrates that snoring is linked to earlier onset of cognitive impairment such as dementia and Alzheimer’s and this new research underlines it.

It’s an expensive long-term task to lower areas of strong air pollution – but not to stop snoring. It’s fast, and can even be achieved overnight in many cases, can be easily done, and costs next to nothing.

SleepPro Stop Snoring products are medically approved, and not just recommended by the National Health Service, but many Hospitals and Sleep Centres supply them directly to patients in most need. Other patients are put in touch online and given the SleepPro Stop Snoring literature that covers the range of products with prices that are affordable everyone. These range from under £30 to just over £150 according to the type of appliance needed and the degree of the problem’s severity.

John Redfern

 


It’s time for a big decision – one that could even save your life

Figures published this week demonstrate clearly that well over 80% of middle-aged adults are putting themselves at serious risk though their unhealthy lifestyle, and millions of people are now living with some form of long-term health condition.

Couple sitting on couch with crisps and phone, mid section

Many Health Authorities, including Public Health England, say they want people to turn over a new leaf in 2017 and make a pledge to get fit. Over 80% of people aged 40 to 60 in England are overweight, snore heavily, drink too much or get too little exercise, the government body warns.

We are living longer, but are in poorer health as we age, and Prof Muir Gray, the campaign’s clinical adviser said it was about trying to make people have a different attitude. Modern life is dramatically different to even 30 years ago,” Prof Gray stated. “People now drive to work and sit at work.”

“By taking action in mid-life, you can reduce your risk not only of type 2 diabetes, which is a preventable condition, but you can also reduce your risk of dementia and disability and being a burden to your family.”

In line with this, experts at the London School of Economics have called for the suggested daily calorie intake of 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men to be reduced. They claim that technology allows people to work, socialise and shop without leaving the sofa, and has driven the obesity crisis.

Being overweight is the key problem and many people no longer recognise what a healthy body weight looks like, say the officials. Obesity, which greatly increases the risk of diabetes, is increasingly considered normal. Overweight or obese adults are more than five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who are at a healthy weight.

As explained last week, it’s a vicious circle. Putting weight on causes you to snore which influences snacking and increases appetite. The added weight which results causes further snoring and we then eat more again as a result. This is a problem that is easily resolved of course and a simple medically approved mouthpiece can be purchased online which will stop your snoring immediately. It’s inexpensive, and no prescription is needed.

It is obviously important to eat less, or differently, to exercise more than you normally do, and also to reduce alcohol consumption if possible. Preventing snoring will assist greatly. You’ll sleep better and feel well rested and it will result in a reduction in your desire for late night snacking and overeating as we described previously.

The figures for the United Kingdom are not unique and are typical of most other developed countries. An analysis of national data by Public Health England reveals that 87 per cent of men and 79 per cent of women in middle age are either overweight or obese, exceed the weekly alcohol guidelines or are physically inactive. The rate of diabetes in this age group has more than doubled in the past 20 years and snoring is the alarm bell.

More than 25% of Britons are living with a long-term health condition, and busy lives and desk jobs make it difficult to live healthily. But just making a few small changes will have significant benefits to people’s health now and in later life.”

Guidance issued by the chief medical officer warns that while no amount of alcohol can be considered safe, adults should not consume more than 14 units a week — the equivalent of about seven 175ml glasses of wine. In the 40 to 60 age group a quarter of men and women regularly consume too much alcohol, according to PHE, increasing their risk of liver disease and at least five types of cancer.

The health watchdog announced this month that people who had two or three alcoholic drinks a night would be sent for liver scans by their GPs to deter “heavy drinking”.

Dan Howarth, head of care at Diabetes UK, said: “We know that people often bury their heads in the sand when it comes to their general health but the consequences of doing nothing can be catastrophic.

“There are an estimated 11.9 million people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the UK alone because of their lifestyle and more than one million who already have the condition but have not yet been diagnosed. They need to take action in this matter now”.

John Redfern