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Did you know that adults 50+ are more proactive about their health than other generations? It’s true! And one of the secrets to better health is listening to what your body is telling you – literally. The best time to do that is when you sleep. Sleep is the window to your health. Here are five signals you should listen to, and why.
1. Your Heart Rate
According to the American Heart Association®, the average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, depending on your age, gender, and overall health. Heart rate is also referred to as “pulse rate,” and is one of your vital signs, along with respiratory rate and body temperature. Your doctor can tell you where your target heart rate should be for your age and medical condition.
- What your body is telling you: Monitoring your heart rate while you sleep is one of the most accurate indicators of overall cardiac health. A sudden increase in heart rate can indicate an oncoming illness. And, when you improve your overall fitness, you should see your resting heart rate decrease. For anyone taking blood pressure medication and looking to prevent heart disease, monitoring your heart rate and watching for changes will help alert you and your doctor so appropriate action can be taken.
2. Your Respiratory Rate
When you breathe, your body takes in oxygen that is critical for life. Breathing is part of respiration. The average adult breathes 12 to 20 breaths per minute when resting/sleeping. Your respiratory rate is another vital sign useful in detecting or monitoring medical conditions, and is best measured when your body is at rest.
- What your body is telling you: Monitoring your respiratory rate during sleep provides an excellent view of your respiratory system health and stability. A sudden increase could indicate an oncoming cold, allergies, or a respiratory infection. And, for someone with a more serious respiratory condition like asthma or COPD, a sudden change can indicate it’s time to use an inhaler or see a doctor. People with respiratory conditions who monitor their breathing while they sleep are able to watch as their respiratory rate improves when they follow their doctor’s orders.
3. Your Stress Level
During this life stage, adults 50+ experience many changes in everything from finances to relationships. Stress can also have an over-arching effect on your health, including the increased likelihood of a bad night’s sleep.
- What your body is telling you: Daily stress level readings collected when you are at rest or sleep will tell you how relaxed you are and whether you should incorporate a plan to help reduce stress throughout the day. This might include activities such as taking a 10-minute walk, meditating, or listening to calm music. When you monitor stress during your sleep every night, you can watch your stress levels go down when you incorporate appropriate personalized techniques to help your stress levels.
4. Your Sleep Time
Most adults over 50 recognize the importance of sleep and brain health. However, according to an AARP Sleep and Brain Health Survey, many participants didn’t understand the connection between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep time and cognitive ability. REM occurs later in your sleep cycle and is the time when you dream. This is important because during REM cycles your memory is refreshed. Knowing your sleep cycle can identify where improvements need to be made.
- What your body is telling you: Optimum total sleep time ranges from 7 to 8 hours per night. Scientific research shows that 20% to 25% of normal sleep time should be REM sleep for optimal memory and focus. Brain health is a top priority for adults over 50. So, for improved cognitive ability, increase your REM by simply sleeping longer. When you monitor your sleep, your sleep cycle pattern is revealed and you’ll be able to track your REM sleep time. If changes are necessary, there are simple tips you can follow to help ensure a better and longer night’s sleep, including going to bed at a consistent time each night or keeping your room temperature cooler.
5. Your Sleep Quality
The data is out there - sleep is important in numerous ways. Your heart and respiratory rate, stress level, and sleep time all provide key information to evaluate your quality of sleep. The goal is to get to know what your body requires for sleep time, and monitoring your body’s signals will help you make necessary improvements.
- What your body is telling you: Twenty-five percent of men over age 50 experience breathing interruption during sleep, and 80% of them don’t know it. Breathing interruptions can only be detected when you monitor your sleep. You can identify breathing interruptions by monitoring and recording your breathing during sleep. The resulting notifications could indicate that you may require testing for sleep apnea, and should consult with your doctor.
The human body is an amazing machine. Listening to what it is telling you helps put you in control. Having the knowledge collected during sleep monitoring allows you to create a plan to improve your overall health. That’s powerful.