Sleep Deprived? 8 Tips to Stay Sharp

Updated: Feb. 08, 2017

Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley connect a decline in cognitive function with lack of sleep among seniors. Here’s what you need to remember about getting enough rest so you don’t start forgetting everything else.

Go for quality, not quantity.

While a solid eight hours is recommended for all adults, sometimes pain, chronic illness, continence issues, depression or stress prevent many from hitting that target. According to the UC Berkeley research, though, it’s the deterioration in the quality (i.e., difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep) that keeps “memories from being saved by the brain at night.”

Ditch any late-day coffee.

It’s hard to remember whether caffeine is good for you and bad for you, as the studies seem to say something different every day. But one thing remains constant: caffeine stays in your system a long time, so it’s best to avoid consuming it too late in the day. Cut it out starting around 3 to 4 p.m., experts recommend.

Get a sound or white noise machine.

Whether you’re lulled to sleep by sirens, speeding cars or songbirds, a sound machine may be a wise idea for keeping your brain and body focused on the task at hand: sleeping. Waterfall sounds may prompt unwelcome midnight bathroom excursions, but many machines have a white-noise option that works well for sleepers of all ages. And yes, there’s probably have an app for that, but if you’re going to use it, keep the device away from your bed with the screen off. Hint: put your phone in airplane mode at night, which still allows you to make or receive emergency calls.

Work out.

Zumba, yoga, jogging, tennis, boxing, or a brisk walk—it doesn’t matter how you exercise as long as you do it consistently. Your body will thank you in more ways than one, an important one being more quality rest when you are able to sleep.


Turn off the TV, the cell phone, the iPad, the laptop. Starve your brain’s addiction to instant information, which in turn will renew and preserve your memory as you sleep. Not only that, you’ll avoid the increased risk of depression that increased exposure to artificial light (from TV, computer and smart phone screens) has been shown to cause. Choose other “unwinding” activities for the pre-bed hours, such as board games, taking a class, reading a book, or simple and enjoyable chores.

Redecorate your bedroom.

New pillows, sheets, bed linens, darkening curtains, and other accessories that make you feel relaxed, cozy and eager to go to bed at night are well worth the money. But don’t just focus on these elements: if you have a TV in the bedroom, move it elsewhere. Got a lot of clutter in your bedroom? Clear it out. Have a workspace in the bedroom? Relocate it. Experts agree that keeping the bedroom for sleep and sex only is a vital way to ensure quality rest.

Keep a bedside journal.

When your head hits that pillow, does your mind start racing? Whatever’s weighing on your mind will probably keep you tossing and turning, so keep a good old-fashioned journal and pen handy (don’t use the smart phone). If no amount of deep breathing or meditation exercises have worked, write down your thoughts. Don’t worry about being grammatically correct, just get them on the page so you can forget about them (at least until morning). Many believe that a great way to improve your memory is by forgetting more, which is certainly necessary when you need to be sleeping instead of stressing.

Talk to your doctor.

If physical, mental, or emotional hardships are keeping you up at night, make an appointment with a physician, who may be able to diagnose an underlying cause that you’re unaware of, or prescribe something to help you sleep through the pain or other distractions.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest