Thu | Jun 30, 2022

Tips to yield a restful sleep

Published:Wednesday | May 25, 2022 | 12:06 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

After a night spent tossing and turning, you wake up feeling like a few of the Seven Dwarves: sleepy and grumpy. Restless nights and weary mornings can become more frequent as we get older and our sleep patterns change. In women, it often begins around the time of menopause, when hot flashes and other symptoms awaken them.

Later in life, there tends to be a decrease in the number of hours slept. There are also some changes in the way the body regulates circadian rhythms. This internal clock helps your body respond to changes in light and dark. When it undergoes a shift with age, it can be harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

We all have trouble sleeping from time to time, but when insomnia persists day after day, it can become a real problem. Beyond making us tired and moody, a lack of sleep can have serious effects on our health, increasing our propensity for obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Tired of feeling tired? Here are some simple tips to help you get to sleep:

EXERCISE

Going for a brisk daily walk won’t just trim you down, it will also keep you up less often at night. Exercise boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin. A study in the journal Sleep found that postmenopausal women who exercised for about three and a half hours a week had an easier time falling asleep than women who exercised less often. Just watch the timing of your workouts. Exercising too close to bedtime can be stimulating. Morning workouts that expose you to bright daylight will help the natural circadian rhythm.

RESERVE BED FOR SLEEP

Do not use your bed as an office for answering phone calls and responding to emails. Also, avoid watching late-night television there. The bed needs to be a stimulus for sleeping, not for wakefulness.

KEEP YOUR BEDROOM COMFORTABLE

Television is not the only possible distraction in your bedroom. Ambience can affect your sleep quality, too. Make sure your bedroom is as comfortable as possible. Ideally, you want a quiet, dark, cool environment. All of these thing promote sleep onset.

START A SLEEP RITUAL

When you were a child and your mother read you a story and tucked you into bed every night, this comforting ritual helped lull you to sleep. Even in adulthood, a set of bedtime rituals can have a similar effect. Rituals help signal the body and mind that it is coming to be time for sleep. Drink a glass of warm milk. Take a bath or listen to calming music to unwind before bed.

EAT – BUT NOT TOO MUCH

A grumbling stomach can be distracting enough to keep you awake, but so can an overly full belly. Avoid eating a big meal within two to three hours of bedtime. If you are hungry right before bed, eat a small healthy snack (such as an apple with a slice of cheese or a few whole wheat crackers) to satisfy you until breakfast.

AVOID ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE

If you do have a snack before bed, wine and chocolate should not be part of it. Chocolate contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. Surprisingly, alcohol has a similar effect. It makes you a little sleepy, but it is actually a stimulant and it disrupts sleep during the night. Also, stay away from anything acidic (such as citrus fruits and juices) or spicy, which can give you heartburn.

DE-STRESS

The bills are piling up and your to-do list is a mile long. Daytime worries can bubble to the surface at night. Stress is a stimulus. It activates the fight-or-flight hormones that work against sleep. Give yourself time to wind down before bed. Learning some form of the relaxation response can promote good sleep and can also reduce daytime anxiety. To relax, try deep breathing exercises. Inhale slowly and deeply, and then exhale.

GET CHECKED

An urge to move your legs, snoring, and a burning pain in your stomach, chest, or throat are symptoms of three common sleep disrupters – restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. If these symptoms are keeping you up at night or making you sleepy during the day, see your doctor for an evaluation.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com

SOURCE: Harvard Health, Sleep Foundation