Give Sleep a Fighting Chance!

Is there anything as delicious as a good night’s sleep? Nothing renews you like sleep. It even helps strengthen memories and can enhance your creativity.1 

Unfortunately, adults older than 60 have more trouble getting deep sleep—the kind that helps cement memories.1 Now, researchers also think a lack of sleep may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In a small study, losing just one night’s sleep increased levels of a protein that’s linked with the disease.

Those are some pretty good arguments for improving your sleep habits, don’t you think? So, what can you do differently? Maybe start by keeping a sleep diary, tracking your routines and sleep patterns. Here are some tips to help ensure you get the best-quality sleep possible:

During the day

  • Eat a healthful diet. 
  • Exercise most days of the week.
  • Work worries? Relationship wrangles? Money troubles? These can all affect your sleep. These don’t always have a simple solution, but you can develop habits to nip stress in the bud. Practice yoga. Take “breathers” throughout the day. Try progressive muscle relaxation. Meditate. What else can you try?
  • Limit naps to 20 minutes.
  • Save thrillers or exciting television for daytime viewing, especially if you know it will rev you up. 3,4

Late in the day

  • Starting in late-afternoon, stay away from caffeine—whether in coffee, tea, or chocolate. 
  • Avoid eating large meals late in the day. To stave off any hunger you feel, a light, healthy snack is okay.
  • Turn off your electronic devices at least a half-hour before bedtime.
  • Create a relaxing routine. Soak in a bubble bath. Stretch. Read. Listen to soothing music. You know what works best for you.3

Right before bedtime

  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime. To prevent wakeful trips to the bathroom, drink fewer fluids right before you head off to bed.
  • Keep a “worry journal.” Write down what’s on your mind, so you can free yourself of thoughts that may keep you up.5
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary: Limit bright lights and loud sounds. Keep the room a comfortable, cool temperature. If you’re particularly sensitive, room-darkening shades, earplugs, or a fan might help.6
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule that allows you to get at least 7 hours of sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times, even on weekends or during vacations.3
  • Wait to go to bed until you feel sleepy. Get out of bed if you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes. 3

If you need more help

Be sure to see your doctor if sleep problems persist. Both medical and emotional issues may make it difficult to sleep well. You might even have a sleep disorder. Also, ask your doctor or me about any medications, herbs, or supplements that could be affecting your sleep.5 If you require a sleep aid, I can explain what you need to know about both prescription and over-the-counter medications. 

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

Sources

  1. National Institutes of Health: “Sleep On It.” Available at: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/sleep-it Accessed 6-1-18. 
  2. National Institutes of Health: “Lack of sleep may be linked to risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.” Available at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/lack-sleep-may-be-linked-risk-factor-alzheimers-disease Accessed 6-1-18.
  3. American Academy of Sleep Medicine: “Healthy Sleep Habits.” Available at: http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits Accessed 6-1-18.
  4. Familydoctor.org: “Sleep Changes in Older Adults.” Available at: https://familydoctor.org/sleep-changes-in-older-adults/?adfree=true Accessed 6-1-18.
  5. MedlinePlus: “Changing your sleep habits.” Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000757.htm  Accessed 6-1-18.
  6. Mayo Clinic: “Adult health.” Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379?p=1 Accessed 6-1-18.

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