Getting a good night’s sleep is more important than we may have realized. Recent research conducted among over 125,000 senior citizens in Australia has revealed that poor sleep quality is one of the biggest risk factors for ending up in a nursing home.
According to the study, individuals who consistently achieved a good night’s sleep of between seven and nine hours were 23% less likely to end up in a nursing home compared to those who slept for fewer than five hours or those who slept for 11 or more hours.
Interestingly, among the various risk factors identified by the medical researchers, only smoking was worse than poor sleep habits. Smokers were found to be twice as likely to require nursing home care compared to nonsmokers.
Although maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise are important, the study emphasized that getting a good night’s sleep is even more beneficial.
Conducted by the University of Sydney, the research is set to be published in the esteemed peer-reviewed Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The participants were initially surveyed between 2006 and 2009, with all of them being aged 60 or above at that time. The researchers then conducted a follow-up approximately 11 years later, with a maximum interval of 14 years.
Of the survey participants, approximately 18% were residing in nursing homes when the follow-up was conducted. However, striking disparities were observed among different groups.
Those who reported having the least healthy lifestyles during the initial survey were found to be 43% more likely to end up in a nursing home compared to those with the healthiest lifestyles.
The Power of a Healthy Lifestyle
A recent study has revealed some astounding numbers: those who lead the healthiest lifestyles are a staggering 30% less likely to end up in a nursing home. So, what exactly constitutes a healthy lifestyle?
The Role of Diet and Exercise
Diet and exercise have always been the keys to a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to food, a healthy diet typically involves consuming abundant servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of fish, and very minimal amounts of red or processed meat. To receive full marks, experts recommend aiming for two servings of fruit, five servings of vegetables, and three servings of fish each week.
Exercise, on the other hand, is more than just about doing the right activities. It also involves avoiding certain behaviors. Engaging in “moderate to vigorous exercise” for at least five hours per week is considered commendable. However, it’s equally important to limit the amount of time spent sitting. Sitting for fewer than seven hours every day is just as beneficial as meeting the recommended exercise requirements. In fact, excessive sitting, defined as more than nine hours daily, is deemed high risk.
The Essential Role of Sleep
While these findings are not groundbreaking, they reinforce the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Sleep quality plays a crucial role in reducing our risk of debilitating illnesses, including dementia. Prioritizing good sleep, along with healthy eating habits and regular walks, can significantly improve our overall well-being.
This study serves as a reminder that as we age and medical costs rise, many of the most effective health interventions are either inexpensive or completely free — and that we have the power to take control of our own health.