Starting in your 20s and continuing through middle age, life’s crazy demands can force you to sacrifice sleep for everything else you just have to get done. Trust us, as busy professionals with families of our own, we understand how rare spare time is. Add in all the Facebooking, Tweeting, and other limitless forms of technology thrown in our faces, and it’s surprising we ever have time to close our eyes for more than five minutes.
However, making a strong effort to set aside the right amount of shut-eye each night (the National Sleep Foundation recently released some updated guidelines on exactly how much we all need), is not only important for maintaining your current health, but also an investment in your future well-being.
As you age, your memory naturally declines. But in a recent study, researchers at the Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory at Baylor University found an interesting association between sleeping well in middle age — defined as when you’re 30- to 60-years-old — and better mental functioning later in life.
While the report published in the January issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science didn’t find concrete cause and effect between sleep now and memory later, it’s probably safe to assume that a pattern seen throughout the 50 years worth of sleep research they analyzed has some merit to it.
We’ve known for a while now that sleeping boosts memory, and that there’s nothing that can really replace a solid night of snoozing. But as you age, your sleeping patterns will probably begin to slope downward again naturally. That is, after middle age, it’s likely you’ll start feeling that you need less sleep than in your most hectic, energy-draining years. Wrong! Most people need more. Nevertheless, quality ZZZs now could potentially bolster your brain as you age, when both your hours asleep and memory start to decline. (By the way, stay tuned for a future column post from a shared medical series Dr. Mike Roizen’s wellness center at the Cleveland Clinic runs, for more info on how to boost your memory and brain health as you get older.)
If you’re lucky (and develop healthy habits now!), you’ll hopefully live with better brain power as you age — yes, it is possible. It may be tough to gaze that far into the future, but you’ll be much happier if you can sit back with your memories being even sharper. And if that’s not enough, think about how great you’d feel if you got at least seven hours of sleep each night. Sounds amazing, right? Now go make it happen!