Every medical professional will advise you to get into a good sleep routine!
This is more difficult if you work irregular hours, have small children or a baby, do shift work or have a partner who does shift work and comes home and wakes you up after you have just got off to sleep.
Know that as you age your sleep ability is not as good as when you were young. This is due to lower hormones and various neurological, cardiovascular, and other medical or physical conditions. All of these can affect sleep, as do sleep partners who snore loudly. Not getting a good sleep makes elderly people sluggish, tired and more likely to fall, so a good sleep is most important.
Poor sleep can work in reverse, actually predisposing you to medical conditions such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and low immunity to diseases.
But generally speaking, still try to go to bed at the same time, and get up at the same time.
Put into place all relevant tips from the Solutions for simple insomnia page.
Other medical reasons why you need a good sleep, and more tips for a good night’s sleep. Sleep helps your brain remember information better. Your brain gets tired too, and doesn’t work as efficiently.
Hormone levels which affect appetite are altered when we don’t get enough sleep, and so we may actually gain weight due to this disruption.
If you don’t get a good night’s sleep you will feel tired during the following day and you may fall asleep. This may not be a big deal if you are at home and dozing off in your lounge chair, but if you are driving a car, operating machinery, or trying to negotiate some rough terrain outside, lack of sleep can lead you to have an accident, which is more serious.
Doctors have also linked medical conditions such as high blood pressure, irregular heart beats, and stress with lack of adequate sleep. The stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline are higher with poor quality sleep.
Your immune system benefits from good quality sleep, preferably starting from well before midnight. Since your immune system is the body’s disease “watchdog” it is most important to make sure it gets nourished with adequate and restful sleep.
Women who are experiencing menopause may find that hot flashes, cramps, headaches and sweating may disturb sleep, as well as just feeling wide awake!
Usually these symptoms don’t last long, but if they do, and you find you are heading for a long term sleep problem then consult your General Practitioner.
A note: Men can also experience similar menopause symptoms, but these happen much later in life, and can be just as distressing. This is due to a sudden drop in testosterone in the male body.
You may find that keeping a sleep diary helps. You can notice patterns in your prebed-time activities, like watching TV, or having a heavy meal, can affect your sleep, and if so then you know what to alter in order to improve the quality of your sleep.
You can probably download a sleep diary from the internet, but basically it’s just drawing up a time and day grid where you record what you do before bedtime, and how long it takes you to drop off to sleep, if and when you wake in the night, how long you stay awake, and when you finally get up. Look for unhelpful patterns you can fix.
Estimate the dropping off to sleep part in the morning, otherwise you could find yourself sitting up in bed watching the clock to see how long it takes to drop off to sleep!
One good way to ruin a good sleep is to watch the clock all the time, so turn the clock-face away from you.
If you are on any medications for example Beta Blockers, SSRI’s (like Prozac and Zoloft), check with your doctor or pharmacist, as sometimes medications interfere with sleep patterns.
Some medications can cause physical problems which interfere with a comfortable sleep. Check with your doctor if you suspect that your sleep problem could be due to medications.
Stop drinking anything with caffeine in it 6 hours before retiring as the caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours. You can have milk or chamomile to calm you. Go to the toilet if you drink anything late in the evening to avoid having to get up in the night.
If you find you get up frequently in the night without a diagnosed medical/kidney problem, try holding off going to the toilet too often in the daytime. Try and hang on for at least two hours to train your bladder to hold a bit more urine. As time goes on you will find that you could be fortunate enough to go throughout the night without having to go to the toilet.
Make sure you write down all your worries and anxieties early in the night, decide which ones are important and resolve to deal with them the following day instead of worrying all night about them.
An evening snack of cheese and crackers, yoghurt with fruit, or turkey or peanut butter with crackers (small serves!) helps you drop off to sleep because some of them contain the amino acid tryptophan which boosts your hormone serotonin levels.
When you first go to bed lie quietly and breathe slowly and deeply. This helps reduce the heart rate and blood pressure, and endorphins (feel good hormones) are also released, helping you relax.
Lavender and Ylang Ylang help relaxation by triggering the alpha waves in the brain (like meditation). Use these perfumes on your pillow case or put the lavender in small bags.
Severe loss of sleep can lead to conditions such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and risky behaviour and stress; See your doctor if your lack of sleep is causing these severe problems.
A good night’s sleep helps the body do its healing. For example sleep is necessary to do repairs and to ward off heart or kidney disease, stroke and high blood pressure and even diabetes. Poor sleep is also implicated in weight gain and obesity. This is because sleep helps balance the hormones which regulate appetite, as well as insulin which controls the blood sugar level.
We also need good restful sleep as when this happens the human growth hormone is activated during deep sleep, and this is necessary for us to build and repair soft tissue and muscles. This is especially so in children and the elderly. So strive for a low stress day, and especially keep stress away from bedtimes, replacing it with any appropriate tips from your sleep routine.
Kathleen Crawford 2016.