Fifty-eight year old John stared at his alarm clock, right next to the photo of his beautiful wife. The clock ticked 3:00 am. Not again! he thought, turning around, as he tried to shut his eyes and fall asleep once again. Four nights in a row and I just can’t stay asleep, he muttered grumpily, as he tossed in bed.
Does this pattern sound familiar? Do you fall asleep just to wake up in the middle of the night, restless and fatigued? Do you want to go back to bed the minute your eyes spot the sun rays in your bedroom, when all you’ve been doing all night is walking to the kitchen for a glass of milk or watching television on the couch?
Sleep expectations change over a person’s lifetime – although older adults still need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. A study of adults over 65 found that 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
Preparing for bed should become a ritual. Establish your rhythm. Plan your bedtime, by relaxing at your regular time – maybe with a good book, a bubble bath or soothing shower – a few minutes of meditation and thoughts about your day or, for good measure, some classical music in the background. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night. Your body will get used to this pattern.
Buy a decent mattress. We usually don’t place much thought to our bed but your body – especially your back muscles – will appreciate a durable, comfortable mattress (try out the hard and soft ones at the store before you take your decision) that can keep your back happy and healthy.
Practice deep breathing or meditation. When we concentrate on a calming word or phrase, our heart rate slows down, muscles relax and our mind clears itself from distracting thoughts. Another technique frequently used is visualization – conjuring up your favorite image – walking along a peaceful beach, listening to the waves in the distance, stepping on crunchy shells………
Limit Daytime Naps. The more you sleep during the day, the less you’ll sleep at night. Try short naps – 15 minute power naps – for a boost of energy. Avoid lengthy naps which lead to a vicious cycle of restless nights.
Analyze your Drinks. Alcoholic beverages or caffeine-rich drinks taken in the late afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep. Learn to read the nutrition labels as chocolate and regular teas contain caffeine.
Establish an Exercise Routine. Regular fitness is essential for good sleep. It reduces anxiety, tension and fatigue – while boosting a positive mood. Don’t exercise too late in the evening as it might interfere with your sleep. Choose activities that you enjoy, that you can stick with in the long run or vary them weekly to avoid boredom.
Read your Favorite Book. A good book, magazine or interesting story can provide a needed distraction from your every day chores. Let your imagination soar as you enter a world of fantasyland and become a new character, a devil – or maybe a villain, for a change.
Remember, think positive thoughts. Take your mind off your problems or even your concern about falling asleep. Drifting into sleep is a habit. Practice being calm, relaxing your muscles, reducing your tension, closing your eyes and…off you go. Good night!