Robin M. Tucker, PhD, RD, FAND | Associate Professor | Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition | Michigan State University
Sleep has long been overlooked as an important determinant of health. While many of us think that we will “sleep when we’re dead,” lack of sleep will get you dead faster! Insufficient sleep is associated with increased risk or poorer management of chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Immune response is also compromised, leaving older adults susceptible to infectious diseases including pneumonia, a leading cause of death. Poor sleep quality nearly tripled the odds of entering skilled nursing care, and the odds of falling, one of the top 20 most costly medical conditions, ranged from 1.5 – 4.5 times higher for older adults reporting poor or insufficient sleep. For those struggling with sleep, improving sleep can help prevent and manage a variety of health conditions and reduce healthcare costs.
While there are certain sleep disorders that interfere with sleep, for a lot of us, our sleep problems are behavior-based. Using screens late at night can suppress melatonin production, a chemical that tells us it’s time to go to bed. A nightcap, while seeming to help us fall asleep, actually interferes with the more restorative stages of sleep and causes us to wake up feeling less refreshed. Inconsistent bed and wake times makes it difficult to get into a routine and cause us to over- or under-sleep. Not being able to relax before going to bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Research shows that attending a sleep education program can be just as effective as medication in improving behavior-based sleep problems.
Michigan State University Extension offers a behavior-based sleep education program called the SLeep Education for Everyone Program (SLEEP). SLEEP consists of six, 30-minute group sessions that are delivered either over Zoom or in-person. Participants in SLEEP have increased their sleep time and sleep quality, while reducing symptoms of insomnia and unhelpful sleep behaviors.
Want to learn more about healthy sleep practices? Join us for the NCRAN webinar on August 5, 2022.