Life style choices can result in sleep problems. Many of my patients work shift work and bring their concerns to me. Sleep issues that are not addressed can result in long term health consequences.
Sleep disruption such as insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, early morning awakenings can begin rearing its ugly head as early as our forties. While you may believe that this is inevitable, it is not. There are many causes to sleep disruption and ruling out serious health conditions is always very important as we age. Regaining and maintaining health, especially at middle-age is necessary for a long and healthy life. In my book, Second Chance at Health, I can help you find your way back to enjoying a life with little to no medication and joy.
In this post I will discuss sleep basics as well as some unique ideas how to improve your sleep.
That being said, the occasional sleepless night is not what I am talking about, I am talking about sleeplessness that is affecting your daily activities, your moods, and yes, even your health.
Let's Talk about Sleep
How much sleep does the average person need?
Adults need approximately 7-8 of sleep per night. There are people who have a gene that allows them to be well and function well on much less sleep than that, but most people fall into the category of 7-8 hours per night.
What are the benefits of sleep?
Sleep provides health benefits such as improved memory, improved concentration, cell repair and also enhancement of the immune system. Since good sleep improves the immune system it can also help ward of some diseases.
What happens to our bodies if we don't get enough sleep?
Our bodies rely on sleep to regenerate and repair. Chronic lack of adequate sleep can lead to depression, attention and memory problems. It has been linked to cardiovascular disease, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and even breast cancer in women!
What can cause sleep disruptions?
There are many culprits that can affect our sleep. The top ones that affect mid-life people include stress (good or bad stress), unaddressed emotional issues, poor sleep hygiene (I will discuss this below), pain, certain medications, or supplements, timing of medication, hormone fluctuations in menopause or post menopause, lack of exercise, lack of sunlight exposure (link my blog), other specific sleep disorders such as Restless Leg Syndrome, or Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Sleeping with pets and snoring spouses can also disrupt sleep.
What can I do about it?
Taking steps to manage sleep hygiene can improve sleep. Sleep hygiene are environmental and behavioral practices that promote good sleep. The following are sleep hygiene suggestions that can improve your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up rested.
-Get a good mattress
-Try sleeping in a hammock I am not kidding! Check this out and yes, I have a hammock in my house that I sleep in when I have back pain that causes sleep disruption.
Trek Light website touts this! Hammock Sleeping is Good for You
Or this one: Hammocks Help You Sleep.
-Cool, dark bedroom
-Limit screen time to not within 1 hour of bedtime
-Keep a regular bed time and getting up time
-Don't' go to bed angry
-Get 20 minutes of bright sunlight early in the day every day
Diet and lifestyle related helps:
Limit caffeine after 3 pm
Don't go to bed hungry but don't eat a large meal just before bed either
Don't eat spicy foods before bed
Don't exercise 2-3 hours before retiring
Don't drink large volumes just before bed
Don't use alcohol to induce sleep (it won't work in the long run)
Do exercise for 30-40 minutes 4 times a week (or 6-7 is better)
Don't allow pets to sleep on the bed or in the same room
Stress management related helps
Journal for 10 minutes daily by listing 5 things you are thankful for
Take care of yourself with counselling, or massage therapy
Read a REAL book before going to sleep
Pray before going to sleep
Listen to relaxing music
What do I do if I wake up at night then?
First, don't worry. If it happens occasionally, you will be fine. If it happens more often, and you are NOT experiencing day time sleepiness, decreased concentration or emotional lability, then it will likely resolve.
Try these techniques when you wake up in the middle of the night:
Try not to worry about it
Just relax and not focus on returning to sleep
If it goes on for more than 20 minutes, try reading yourself back to sleep with a book, but keep the room dim
Keep a journal by your bed at night and IF you wake up worrying, write it down and go back to sleep because you then know you won't worry about it.
When do I need to be concerned?
If you begin to experience sleep disruption that results in daytime sleepiness, not waking feeling rested, mood lability (that means cranky), persistent concentration and attention problems, reliance on over the counter sleep aides, then you may need to seek assistance from your doctor or other health care provider. If your partner tells you that you snore or stop breathing you need to be assessed for obstructive sleep apnea.
Difficulty sleeping does not have to impact your life negatively. Take one or more of these steps to improve your sleep quality. If these changes fail to improve your sleep and your symptoms, see your personal medical provider and they will help you further.
Sweet Dreams !
Ensuring overall health and wellness can improve your chances of getting enough sleep. In my book Second Chance at Health-Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating, I offer guidance on how to attain and maintain both. Order my book now and regain your health and sleep better.