Sleep Well

By Scott LaFee

March 20, 2019 7 min read

As we age, deep sleep tends to become more of a memory. Older persons tend to sleep less and less well, the latter often due to medications or health issues such as sleep apnea. That has implications for brain health and risk of neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

In a recent study using mice, researchers found that the depth of sleep impacts the brain's ability to efficiently wash away waste and toxic proteins. Deep non-REM sleep (beyond dreaming) is optimal for the brain to take care of housecleaning. When that doesn't happen (enough), toxic proteins such as beta-amyloid and tau, both associated with Alzheimer's, may accumulate, speeding neurological decline.

Bottom line: It's not just how long you sleep, but how well you do it.

Still, you've got to start somewhere, and contrary to popular myth, older people don't necessarily need less sleep than others. See "Sum Body" below for a handy age-related guide.

Variety Is the Spice of (Longer) Life

Researchers say older adults who spend more time interacting with a wide range of people are more likely to be physically active and enjoy greater emotional well-being. These adults' social circles weren't limited to just family and close friends but included more casual acquaintances and greater interactions with service providers and strangers.

All of which tended to mean they got out more, spent less time sitting around or in isolation and enjoyed more positive moods and less negative feelings.

"Adults often grow less physically active and more sedentary as they age, and these behaviors pose a risk factor for disease and death," said Karen Fingerman, the director of the Texas Aging & Longevity Center at the University of Texas, Austin. "It is difficult to convince people to go to the gym or commit to work out on a regular basis. But they may be willing to reach out to acquaintances, attend an organized group event or talk to the barista who serves them at their favorite coffee shop. Socializing in these contexts also can increase physical activity and diverse behaviors in ways that benefit health without necessarily working up a sweat."

Body of Knowledge

Magnetic resonance imaging studies suggest that all of a person's neural connections form by age 3.

Get Me That, Stat!

Women with abdominal pain wait in emergency rooms for an average of 65 minutes — compared with 49 minutes for men — and young women are seven times more likely to be sent home from a hospital while in the middle of a heart attack, according to Maya Dusenbery in her book, "Doing Harm."

Mania of the Week

Dermatillomania: An extreme enthusiasm or obsession with picking at one's skin

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh and then think — a look at real science that's hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.

In 2016, the Ig Nobel Prize in reproductive medicine went to Ahmed Shafik for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton or wool trousers on the sex life of rats. He would later conduct similar tests with human males.

Conclusion: Pants made of cotton, wool or a poly blend appeared to have little effect. One hundred percent polyester did, perhaps due to electrostatic fields created.

It probably also doesn't help one's sex life to wear little rat pants of any material.

Best Medicine

Podiatrist: A medical professional who adds insoles to injury


"Sedentary people are apt to have sluggish minds. A sluggish mind is apt to be reflected in flabbiness of body and in a dullness of expression that invites no interest and gets none." — Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (1890-1995)

Medical History

This week in 1877, Louis Pasteur began work on virulent anthrax bacteria in his laboratory at Lille, France, spurred by a local outbreak that killed countless cattle and sheep. Robert Koch had already identified the anthrax bacillus. Pasteur showed the disease was caused by the microbe, not by a toxin, as others had suspected. He worked with a solution containing the infection. At a dilution factor of 1 part to 100, it still caused death because the bacteria continued to multiply. Four years later, he had a successful vaccine. Inoculated cows and sheep survived; an untreated control group died. He later went on to produce an effective rabies vaccine.

Sum Body

Based on medical experts' recommendations, the National Sleep Foundation lists recommended sleep ranges for infants, children, adults and seniors:

— Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day

— Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours

— Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours

— Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours

— School-age children (6-13): 9-11 hours

— Teens (14-17): 8-10 hours

— Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours

— Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours

— Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

Fit to Be Tried

There are thousands of exercises, and you've only got one body, but that doesn't mean you can't try them all. If the ordinary pushup seems more like a pushover, try the decline version. It's a lot harder. Come to a plank position with your feet elevated on a bench or chair. Inhale as you lower yourself down, chest toward the ground, taking care that your elbows stay tucked back, not flaring to the sides. Exhale as you push up.

Med School

Q: What is Haglund's deformity?

A: It's a bony enlargement on the back of the heel. The soft tissue near the Achilles tendon becomes irritated when the bony enlargement rubs against shoes. This often leads to painful bursitis, which is an inflammation of the bursa (a fluid-filled sac between the tendon and bone). Colloquially, it's known as a "pump bump" because pump-style shoes can create pressure that aggravates the enlargement when walking. In fact, any shoe with a rigid back can cause this irritation.

Last Words

"Does nobody understand?" — Irish novelist James Joyce (1882-1941), whose works include the famously complex masterpiece "Ulysses," written as stream of consciousness by its characters

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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