Sleep. . .
Despite my daily practice, my meditation and my efforts to remain centered and calm I still wrestle with one my life most difficult “practices” – Sleep.
As we age, we often experience normal changes in our sleeping patterns, such as becoming sleepy earlier, waking up earlier, or experiencing less deep sleep. However, disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, and other symptoms of insomnia are not a normal part of aging. Sleep is just as important to your physical and emotional health as it was when you were younger.
A good night’s sleep helps improve concentration and memory formation, allows your body to repair any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshes your immune system, which in turn helps to prevent disease. To improve your quality of sleep it’s important to understand the underlying causes of your sleep problems. The following tips can help you identify and overcome age-related sleep problems, get a good night’s rest, and improve the quality of your waking life.
Understand how sleep changes as you age – As you age your body produces lower levels of growth hormone, so you’ll likely experience a decrease in slow wave or deep sleep (an especially refreshing part of the sleep cycle). When this happens you produce less melatonin, meaning you’ll often experience more fragmented sleep and wake up more often during the night. That’s why many of us consider ourselves “light sleepers” as we age.
Identify underlying causes for your insomnia – Many cases of insomnia or sleep difficulties are caused by underlying but very treatable causes. By identifying all possible causes, you can tailor treatment accordingly.
Two of the daytime habits that most affect sleep are diet and exercise. As well as eating a sleep-friendly diet during the day, it’s particularly important to watch what you put in your body in the hours before bedtime.In fact studies have shown that what and when eat before bed can have significant impact on sleep quality and cycles. The following tips are always worth a try:
Diet tips to improve sleep
Limit caffeine late in the day. Avoid coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate late in the day.
Avoid alcohol before bedtime. It might seem that alcohol makes you sleepy, but it will actually disrupt your sleep.
Satisfy your hunger prior to bed. Have a light snack such as low-sugar cereal, yogurt, or warm milk and try not to eat at least and hour or so before bed – your body has work to do when consuming nutrients so eat small and eat earlier.
Cut down on sugary foods. Eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, pasta, and French fries can cause wakefulness at night and pull you out of the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
Avoid big meals or spicy foods just before bedtime. Large or spicy meals may lead to indigestion or discomfort. Try to eat a modest-size dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Minimize liquid intake before sleep. Limit what you drink within the hour and a half before bedtime to limit how often you wake up to use the bathroom at night.
Exercise—especially aerobic activity—releases chemicals in your body that promote more restful sleep. Even if you have mobility issues, there are countless activities you can do to prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep. But always consult your doctor before embarking on any new fitness program.
The best tip I can offer is to let go before bed. Stress and anxiety built up during the day can also interfere sleep at night. It’s important to learn how to let go of thoughts and worries when it’s time to sleep. I always end the day with a short 5 minute meditation where I simply clear the mind, let go and call it a wrap. Its more beneficial than I had ever thought so give it a go.
Peace and Love, Jim