Oh … to be a teenager again. Just to be able to sleep through the night – and all the way to lunchtime if you want. Remember those days?
You’re tired. You’ve been waking up at 2am, unable to sink back into the abyss – for hours.
The problem has become increasingly common as you’ve got older. You try not to look at a clock, or your phone, or pick up a book. You keep your eyes shut and try to fill the hours as best you can; revisiting every holiday you’ve ever had – and the standout meals you’ve eaten along the way; debating (with yourself) your top 10 books and movies; dredging the brain for your earliest memory. They’re great time-fillers, but, of course, you’d rather be asleep.
What we know
It’s a myth that you need less sleep as you get older, with 7.5 to 9 hours recognised as the norm for healthy adults aged over 20. But don’t stress if you’re falling short.
Older bodies produce lower levels of the human growth hormone so you’re likely to experience less deep sleep. That, in turn, affects the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness, so there’s a Catch-22.
Your immune system and cells repair while you sleep, so concentration and memory will be poorer if you’ve had an interrupted night.
Muscles relax and energy is restored during sleep.
Menopause – and the accompanying hot flushes that can affect men as well as women – can interrupt sleep. It’s tough to sleep through a waterfall of perspiration.
A lack of daily exercise will have an impact, as will anxiety and depression, some medications, and a lack of sunlight.
Health issues such as prostate problems, Alzheimer’s and dementia, general aches and pains will also have an affect.
What you shouldn’t do
- have a lengthy afternoon nap
- drink caffeine in the afternoon
- discuss weighty issues with family close to bedtime
- stress about not getting enough sleep.
What you should do
- exercise daily and get enough (indirect) sunlight
- ensure your evening meal is eaten well before bedtime
- turn off the television and put the phone and iPad down at least 15 minutes before lights out – turn off the phone or switch it to ‘do not disturb’
- aim for a cool dark bedroom
- use the bedroom only for sleeping (and sex) – no television, please
- make sure your bed is comfortable and you’re happy with your pillow
- discuss any health and medication issues with your doctor.
If a particular essential oil or perfume helps you breathe deeply and relax, use it.
The 4-7-8 technique
Breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds and breathe out for eight seconds. The aim is to focus the brain, slow your heart rate and relax.
What technique have you used to get a perfect night’s sleep?