Snooze Your Way To Better Health
What keeps you up at night? As we age, a variety of changes can cause disturbances in our sleep. A recent research paper published in the National Academy of Sciences in the US found that less than 6 hours of sleep each night for just 1 week resulted in over 700 changes to a person’s genes. The biggest impact was seen in the immune system, heart disease, sugar levels, brain function, inflammation, and weight. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night can be a challenge for many of us. Here are some steps we can take to promote healing sleep:
- Follow a routine– Freedom in retirement opens up a world of possibilities for how we spend our day. No more alarm clocks, rushing to be somewhere, spending time and energy at work and using what energy is left with family. Getting out of a busy routine can quickly turn to poor habits if we’re not careful. Try getting up at a regular time, scheduling a walk or stretching, eat a well-balanced breakfast, then get out of the house for an hour or two. Finish 2 or 3 items on a “To Do” list then relax. A sense of purpose and accomplishment, a routine and a little exertion can get your sleep patterns back on track.
- Use natural techniques to calm your mind and ease pain- Chronic conditions can make going to bed seem like a chore. Trouble breathing, chronic pain and worry are sure to keep anyone from snuggling under the covers and drifting off in sound slumber. Talk with your doctor about pillows and wedges to make your sleep more comfortable. Meditation and breathing exercises can help clear your mind, control pain, improve breathing and help your body relax through simple techniques for any age.
- Know how medications and food can affect sleep– Review any medications or foods that may be causing you to lose sleep. Ask your doctor if you can safely take the medication earlier in the day. Skip the coffee, nicotine and alcoholic drinks. Finally, avoid heavy, greasy or sugary foods at night to prevent acid reflux.
- Turn off the night light– To reap the benefits of a deep sleep, the room should be as dark as possible. Don’t forego safety- switch to motion sensor lights or a small flashlight to light your way when you do find yourself needing to get up.
- Cool down the room- Cooler temperatures help prepare the body naturally for sleep.
- Talk to someone- Grief, depression, anxiety, fear and loneliness can feel overwhelming. Most older adults don’t share these emotions with someone easily. Find a person you trust, a support group or a trained professional to discuss how you feel. Unloading a burden of hidden feelings to just one other person will reduce the impact they have on you.
- Add soothing sounds-Sleep CDs- If you can’t seem to keep your mind from keeping you awake, try a soft sleep or meditation CD. Soft classical music for sleep or soothing nature sounds can clear your thoughts and cue your body to relax.
“Where there is love there is life.”
― Mahatma Gandhi