Getting enough sleep can sometimes be a challenge for people as they grow older, setting the stage for declined cognitive function. This can be a frustrating problem, but there’s help. A new study in the December 15 issue of Sleep (2004; 27 , 1542–51) suggests that bouts of social and physical activity improve cognitive performance and sleep quality in older adults.
Researchers worked with 12 men and women between the ages of 67 and 86 who lived in retirement facilities and residential apartments. Some subjects were healthy; others had chronic but stable medical conditions. All were self-sufficient in their activities of daily living.
Subjects participated in daily 90-minute sessions over a 14-day period either in the morning or in the evening. Sessions consisted of 30 minutes of warm-up stretches and low-impact aerobics, 30 minutes of seated recreation (e.g., card or board games) and 30 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity and cooldown exercises.
Results showed that the activities “significantly improved performance on a neuropsychological test battery.” Cognitive function improved 4%–6%, and sleep quality—rated subjectively by the participants—also improved.