Have you noticed that sleeping through the night seems to get tougher the older we get?
Never mind that we’re already feeling exhausted just from everyday stuff like work, family care-giving for our kids or parents, bills and household chores.
It seems the only things that keep us able to manage our lives throughout the daylight hours are adrenaline and cortisol – great stuff if you need to ‘fight or flight’ but not so good when you can’t really run away from your modern life.
Well, that ends tonight.
Tonight I want you to put on your favorite pair of PJ’s (if you’re into sleepwear) and expect a good long visit from the sandman because I have some excellent tips (and an amazing recipe) outlined especially for you!
Sleep Science: Fascinating, Complicated and Ever-Expanding
Sleep has always been important to our health and yet it’s still a bit of a mystery. We’re just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.
Lack of sleep affects the body and mind on just about every level. In fact, those of us who lack adequate sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Studies even link sleep deprivation to weight gain, hormone imbalance, systemic inflammation, and it can be blamed for making an already sluggish metabolism even slower... And don't forget the impact lack of sleep can have on mood, memory and decision-making skills.
In fact, did you know that the lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (Well, crap!)
Yes, all those hours at the gym struggling to get through your work out can be negated by lack of sleep. So, as you can imagine, sleep is quite important and vital in these three areas:
Sleep restores our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
Sleep improves our brain's ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
Sleep helps to conserve energy so we're not “actively” functioning 24-hours a day, every day.
And how much sleep do midlife adults need? Well, it’s less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it's recommended that we get 7 - 9 hours a night. It's true (you can Google it, if you want)!
However, most of us fall way short of this amount nightly. If that's you, don't worry, I've listed a bunch of actionable tips for you below.
Tips For Better Sleep
The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you're more likely to achieve it. This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Seven. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or worse; the orange “flavored” snack). Make sure you're getting some protein every time you eat.
During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it's daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm (I actually stop at 10am). Yes, this might include your ‘fancy’ Starbucks order, or beloved chai latte… Caffeine and added sugar combined can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (BONUS TIP: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you!).
Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 - 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book, journaling or having a bath.
If you are desperate for sleep, you can always discuss your options with your primary care physician. However, do consider incorporating the tips I have outlined before you decide to add medication (and its side effects) to your routine. We all lose sleep on occasion but sticking to a routine can help minimize our encounters with insomnia.
That said, how many of these tips will you start implementing by day's end?
Oh, and if you have any additional tips I might have missed, feel free to write them in your comments below. I look forward to hearing from you, and as always - Keep moving toward a better you!