Study: Helping Older Individuals Sleep Translates to Lower Disease Risk

It is no secret that chronic insomnia can wreak absolute havoc on our health. Sleep is the body’s restoration phase: it is the time that significant healing takes place in the body, and when information is stored and sorted in the brain.

For older individuals, who are already at a higher risk of health issues such as heart disease and diabetes, insomnia can be a very serious problem. It has been long known that lack of sleep triggers inflammation in the body, which can become chronic if insomnia persists. Inflammation, in turn, is at the root of many illnesses.

However, a new study, performed by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), found out something new: that treating insomnia and getting a person back into healthy sleep habits could lower this inflammation, thus potentially lowering disease risk, as well.

For their experiment, the researchers recruited 123 adults over the age of 55 who suffered from insomnia. For four weeks, the researchers worked on ameliorating the subjects’ insomnia with one of three methods – cognitive behavior therapy, t’ai chi, or sleep seminars – and measured inflammation levels throughout the study using the CRP inflammatory marker.

Results showed that if an individual’s insomnia did improve, their inflammation markers went down accordingly.

On their results, first author Michael Irwin writes, “what we found particularly intriguing was that the levels of the CRP inflammatory marker remained low even 16 months after treating the insomnia.”

sleepHowever, there was a dark side if insomnia was not remedied. Irwin explains, “if insomnia is untreated and sleep disturbance persists, we found that CRP levels progressively increase. Together, these findings indicate that it is even more critical to treat insomnia in this population who are already at elevated risk for aging-related inflammatory disease.”

Of the insomnia therapies tested, cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) was found to be the most effective. CBT teaches individuals how to alter their thought patterns towards more positive, health-promoting behaviors, and apparently, for the study participants, it did significant good.

Aside from cognitive behavioral therapy, check out our article on how to renovate your nighttime routine for better sleep, as well as our recipes for some great (and, of course, healthy) goodnight tonics.

-The Alternative Daily


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