Ageing impacts many functions in the body and one of them is the ability to get quality sleep.
There are several reasons for this, including natural changes in circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock), and a decline in hormone production (specifically melatonin and cortisol which influence when we sleep and wake).
Certain health conditions may also interfere with evening slumber. These include depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes and painful complaints, such as arthritis. Medication can play a role too – antidepressants and corticosteroids are known to contribute to symptoms of insomnia.
For some people, the disruption in sleep is a minor inconvenience, for others it’s a major issue that impacts their mental and emotional wellbeing. Wherever you sit on the scale, it’s important to get the best sleep possible as a tired body is more susceptible to illness.
These simple steps may help to ensure success:
Exercise: Older people who exercise regularly fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and report better quality of sleep.
Eliminate bedroom distractions: Televisions, cellphones, and bright lights can make it more challenging to fall asleep. Ideally, stay off screens for a couple of hours before bed…
Avoid stimulants: Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and even large meals late in the day can make sleep more challenging. Cut back on any stimulants and try to eat dinner earlier.
Keep a regular sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can make a big difference. Being mindful about how long you nap for in the day counts as well (clue: less is often best).
Have a bedtime routine: Relaxing activities such as gentle yoga, meditation, reading and a warm bath can all help pave the way for a gentle night’s rest. Aromatherapy oils, such as lavender, camomile, valerian, clary sage, ylang ylang and bergamot are helpful too.
Consider breathing exercises: Deep breathing helps the body to relax by slowing down certain physiological functions and calming the mind. One of our favourite exercises for sleep is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Sit with a straight back and place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and keep it there. Exhale through your mouth and make a “whooshing” sound. Close your mouth and inhale in through your nose to a count of four. Hold this breath and count to seven. Then, exhale out through your mouth while making the same “whoosh” sound and count to eight. Now go back and repeat the cycle until you’ve done four complete breaths only, then stop. Practice this technique twice a day and you’ll soon notice the benefits.
* Some information from: sleepfoundation.org