Almost everybody has difficulty sleeping once in a while. However, between 10 and 20% of the population have more difficulty sleeping compared to everyone else and many have chronic sleep issues.
Studies have established that not enough sleep or poor quality sleep increases the risk of hypertension, increased cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. Sleeping excessively or not enough has also been found to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.
According to one study, 7 hours is the best amount of sleep for middle-aged and older individuals, with not enough or an excessive amount of sleep linked to poorer mental health and cognitive performance. 1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE DOI: 10.1038/s43587-022-00210-2
Getting fewer than 5 hours of sleep in mid-to-late life has been associated with an elevated risk of no less than 2 chronic diseases.2✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1004109 Researchers looked at the connection between the amount of time each study participant slept and if they had received a diagnosis for 2 or more chronic diseases over 25 years which included diabetes, cancer, or heart disease.
Medications for treating insomnia are linked to building up a tolerance, dependency, and unwanted side effects, with one study finding a 36% increased risk of mortality.3✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE DOI: 10.1177/070674371005500904
1. CBD may help to improve the quality of sleep
All 72 participants completed assessments for anxiety and sleep when the CBD treatment started and after the 1st month’s follow-up. By the 2nd month’s follow-up, 41 participants continued with CBD treatment, and assessments were completed; 27 participants continued with CBD treatment at the 3rd month’s assessment.
Sleep and anxiety improved for the majority of participants on average, and these improvements were sustained over time. At the 1st month’s assessment after CBD treatment started, 66.7% and 79.2% of all participants experienced an improvement in sleep and anxiety, respectively.
Two months after the CBD treatment started, 56.1% and 78.1% of participants reported improvement in sleep and anxiety, respectively.
2. Melatonin supplements may help to improve quality of sleep
Melatonin is one of the more commonly used dietary supplements in the US. Researchers carried out a study of 24 healthy, older individuals to assess whether a low-dosage or a high-dosage melatonin supplement could help improve sleep.5✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE DOI: 10.1111/jpi.12801
They observed that the higher dosage had a significant effect, and increased the total sleep time in comparison to placebo by over 15 minutes for nighttime sleep and by 30 minutes for daytime sleep.
Sleep deficiency gets to be more common as we get older, and a lot of older individuals report using melatonin considering the negative aspects of many prescription sleep medications.
The study provides insight into the importance of considering timing and dosage when it comes to the effects of supplements such as melatonin, particularly in older individuals.
The hormone melatonin is naturally produced by the body, which assists in regulating the sleep-wake cycle with night and day. Levels of melatonin peak at nighttime, but levels are often lower in older individuals.
Melatonin supplements are sold over the counter normally in the form of a capsule or pill and can be used before going to bed.
To assess the effects of melatonin supplements rigorously, the researchers focused on healthy, older individuals without any history of significant sleep disorders. The study consisted of 24 individuals between 55 and 78 years old.
The individuals lived in separate study rooms without any clocks, windows, or other time indicators throughout the month-long study period. They adhered to a desynchrony schedule, rather than adhering to 24-hour day and night cycles, they followed 20-hour cycle schedules to separate the rest-activity effects from the circadian clock.
This permitted the sleep to be scheduled at night as well as throughout the day, but with a similar waking duration prior to each sleep. Individuals were randomly allocated to take a placebo pill for 2 weeks and either a 0.3 mg dose of melatonin or a 5 mg dose for 2 weeks half an hour before going to bed.
Researchers made use of polysomnography for recording muscle tone, eye movement, brain waves, and other important sleep metrics.
The researchers discovered that overall sleep time was not significantly changed with the 0.3 mg dose of melatonin and that the observed changes were when scheduled sleep was during the day.
There was a significant increase in sleep efficiency and total sleep time in individuals who took the 5 mg dose whether or not scheduled sleep was during the day or night.
3. Montmorency tart cherry juice may help improve quality of sleep
In a small pilot study, sleep time was extended by 84 minutes in 8 individuals who were suffering from insomnia after drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice for 14 days.6✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE DOI: 10.1097/MJT.0000000000000584
Eight healthy 50 years or older individuals with chronic insomnia and a typical bedtime between 9 p.m. and midnight took part in this study.
Insomnia was classified as trouble sleeping 3 nights a week on average, with an Insomnia Severity Index score higher or equivalent to 10 and meeting the insomnia criteria for the International Classification of Sleep Disorders.
Individuals were randomly allocated to either a group that consumed Montmorency tart cherry juice or a control group that consumed a placebo beverage. Individuals in the Montmorency tart cherry juice group drank approximately 8 ounces of the cherry juice for 14 days in the morning and at night, 1 to 2 hours before going to bed. Following the same schedule, the placebo group individuals drank a beverage made to look and taste similar to cherry juice.
After 2 weeks of drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice or the placebo beverage, individuals underwent an overnight polysomnographic sleep study.
On waking following the sleep study, 5 validated questionnaires previously conducted with the individuals were repeated and they were asked about any adverse events. Following a 2-week washout period, they were switched over to the tart cherry juice group or placebo group, and the 2-week testing phase was repeated.
Montmorency tart cherry juice significantly extended the sleep time of the participants by 84 minutes when compared to the placebo beverage and there was an increase in sleep efficiency on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.
4. Regular exercise can help improve quality of sleep
According to a study, sleep quality is improved with regular aerobic exercise. The study results showed significant improvement in participants’ reported sleep quality, which included sleep duration, in comparison to any other non-pharmacological treatment.7✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE DOI: 10.1016/j.sleep.2010.04.014
The study consisted of 23 sedentary individuals, mostly women, 55 and older who struggled to fall asleep and/or remain asleep with impaired daytime functioning. A higher prevalence of insomnia is seen in women.
Following a period of conditioning, the aerobic exercise group exercised for two 20-minute periods 4 times each week for 16 weeks or one 30-to-40-minute period 4 times each week also for 16 weeks.
The individuals exercised at 75% of their maximum heart rate on a minimum of 2 activities which included walking or making use of a treadmill or stationary bicycle.
The individuals in the non-exercise group took part in educational or recreational activities, which included a museum lecture or a cooking class, which met for approximately 45 minutes 3 to 5 times each week for 16 weeks.
Both groups were given education about good sleep hygiene, such as going to bed at the same time every night, sleeping in a cool, quiet, and dark room, and not remaining in bed too long if unable to fall asleep.
The participants’ self-reported sleep quality improved with exercise, improving from a poor sleeper diagnosis to a good sleeper diagnosis. Less daytime sleepiness and more vitality were also reported.
Their Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index scores decreased by 4.8 points on average. Higher scores indicate worse sleep.