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Senior health tips: the benefit of a full night's sleep

January 21, 2014

Sleeping for seven to eight hours a night is not only important for allowing your body and mind to recharge on a daily basis, but according to several recently released studies, a good night's sleep may also provide much longer-lasting health benefits. Scientists have found in the past that sleep may have the ability to lower one's risk of getting diabetes and heart disease, decrease the desire to binge-eat and increase memory functioning. 

Additionally, obtaining a proper amount of sleep can lead to more healthy aging, according to a study conducted by the University Hospitals Case Medical Center. To engage in a healthy lifestyle for seniors, this type of sleep is essential. Here are a few more ways sleep can improve a senior's health:

Lowered risk of prostate cancer
According to a recent study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research, the sleep hormone melatonin may be related to a decreased risk of contracting prostate cancer. Researchers studied the effects of the hormone on a group of 928 Icelandic men, concluding that those who had more melatonin were less likely to develop the disease.

"Men who had higher levels of melatonin had a 75 percent reduced risk for developing advanced prostate cancer compared with men who had lower melatonin," said Sarah Markt, lead author and doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health.

While the study concluded that melatonin did show a correlation with the decreased chance of contracting the disease, researchers emphasized that their findings were preliminary and that there are still several factors to be considered in the trial, including exercise, Vitamin D and the effect of UV rays.

Decreased pain sensitivity
The journal SLEEP recently published a study in which scientists found that individuals who reported receiving a good night's sleep also claimed to have reduced pain sensitivity. Dr. Timothy Roehrs, author of the study, concluded that pain sensitivity in tired individuals can sometimes be directly linked to the fact that they are sleepy. 

In addition to decreasing pain sensitivity, higher amounts of sleep have been linked to a decrease in chronic pain, such as migraines, lower back aches and joint pains. 

Dr. David Neumeyer, associate director of the Sleep Disorder Center at the Lahey Clinic Medical Center, told WebMD that pain and sleep are very connected.

"Chronic pain is very common in the population and even more common in people who have poor sleep, and it sort of becomes a vicious cycle," he told the source.