Tips for Getting Yourself Back to Sleep
By Leah Lancione
Everyone knows getting enough and quality sleep is vital to overall well-being. However, many people continue to deal with sleepless nights or erratic sleep patterns. The National Sleep Foundation (sleepfoundation.org) advises that even though changes to sleep patterns are a normal part of the aging process, “as people age they tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep when they were younger.” The foundation also reminds us that the need for adequate sleep does not change throughout adulthood. Even though we may find it easier to be an early riser later in life, or that we’ve retired, it doesn’t mean going on less sleep is a good thing. So, what to do if we find ourselves “going bump in the night?”
The foundation says changes in “sleep architecture,” or “patterns of our sleep” are what cause older individuals to have sleep problems, whether it’s waking throughout the night or waking too early. Besides giving up caffeinated drinks in the evening, there are a few tactics that may just work for you when you can’t stay asleep. Some of the strategies aren’t so much things to do as they are things not to do when lying in bed staring at the ceiling.
WebMD (www.webmd.com) suggests staying in bed for another 10 minutes after you wake up without clock-watching. Instead of staring at the clock, the site suggests keeping clocks out of sight and staying what feels like 10 minutes because counting the minutes causes more undue stress. “As comfy as your bed may be, it’s best to leave your bedroom when you get up.” This is important since your bedroom should be viewed only as a place to sleep. Go to another room to do something calm and soothing that may lull you back into sleep mode. Possible activities include:
- Listening to music
- Doing relaxation exercises
While sleep experts recommend trying to soothe yourself back to sleep by engaging in relaxing actions, they suggest resisting the urge to do work or turn on the TV or computer because these stimulating activities “reinforce the habit of waking early.” Plus, anything that has a lit-up screen could potentially “trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and that you need to be awake.”
The Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org/) offers a few other approaches to combating what experts there call “sleep maintenance insomnia.” The site lists the following approaches to relieve it:
- Establish a quiet, relaxing bedtime routine.
- Relax your body with yoga or progressive muscle relaxation.
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep by keeping light, noise and temperature at levels that are comfortable and won’t disturb your rest.
- Avoid caffeine after noon, and limit alcohol to one drink several hours before bedtime.
- Get regular exercise, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime.
- Go to bed only when you’re sleepy.
- Wake up at the same time every day.
- Avoid daytime napping.
Osteopathic physician and best-selling author Dr. Joseph Mercola offers a few more ways to induce sleep that include: sleeping in complete darkness. That might mean investing in room-darkening shades and not turning on the light at any point during the night, keeping the room temperature at no more than 70 degrees and taking a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime.
There are many nutrition experts who also tout the use of all-natural sleep aids to bring on sleep. Fitnessmagazine.com suggests the following foods or beverages have been known to help folks “win at sleep—without having to hit up the heavy-duty drug aisle at your pharmacy.” These all-natural sleep aids include:
- Kiwis. Two before bedtime “pack a punch of serotonin.”
- Tart cherry juice. A glass a day “could keep the restless nights at bay.
- Lavender. “The scent of lavender relaxes your nervous system.”
- Green tea. The drink contains l theanine, a relaxing amino acid. About two cups containing 200 milligrams daily will suffice.
- Bananas. “Bananas contain magnesium which has a calming effect.”
If none of the above strategies help you fall back to sleep at night, consult your doctor to see if there are more extensive underlying factors causing the sleeplessness. For now, good night and, hopefully, sleep tight!
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