Sleepless in Mid-Life - How To Have A Better Nights Sleep
Last night I couldn't sleep well and I know that I am not the only one because insomnia is very common at the mid-life. Probably, when you cannot sleep you start to feel other emotions too, turning in a vicious circle: the less I can sleep more nervous or worried I am and vice versa.
Why does sleeplessness happen in mid-life? Why do I struggle with getting a good night’s sleep at this stage of my life? I decided it was important to know what is causing the sleeplessness (knowledge is power) so I can begin to understand what changes I need to make. I did some research and here is what I found.
Why You Have Insomnia
There are different causes for insomnia but first, I want to talk about the evolutionary reason behind that. When our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, they played different roles according to their ages: the younger had more energy and strength. They brought food for all and needed to rest at night but, someone had to be on alert. At that time, there were many hazards that could threaten their survival. For that reason, mid-lifers took the protection role, being on alert. So the sleep habit changed.
Here are some additional reasons that can keep you from a good night sleep.
- Menopause: our body temperature is higher, experiencing night sweats and hot flashes.
- Sleep cycle can change. We usually both fall asleep and wake up earlier.
- Artificial lights can affect this cycle because our brain can think is earlier than actually is.
- Lack of sunlight. Sunlight helps us to regulate our sleep-wake cycles.
- Worries or stress factors such as caring for our aging parents, our retirement or lost our loved ones.
- Health conditions such as a frequent need to urinate, pain, arthritis, asthma, diabetes or osteoporosis. Also, some medication combination, as well as their side-effects, can impair our sleep.
- Lack of exercise. This may us feel less tired and so, less sleepy.
Sleep is important to our physical and emotional health. It helps us to improve our concentration and memory, allows to repair our body and refreshes our immune system as well as to prevent health conditions such as depression, attention and memory problems, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems, and breast cancer.
The good news is that we can make some changes and reduce or remove these risk factors:
- Remove clocks from your bedroom. Anxiously watching them is not good for insomnia.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Turn off the TV and computer, at least, one hour before bed. If you use an electronic device to read, choose an eReader because they don’t have artificial lights.
- Develop bedtime rituals such as taking a bath, listening to music or practicing gratitude to help your body calm down before bed.
- If you can't sleep, don't stand up, turning on the TV or reading a book because these can stimulate your brain. Instead, try to stay in bed practicing meditation or affirmations. Although you can not sleep, your body will rest.
- Ask for help. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can reduce thoughts or worries in order to prevent insomnia.
- Minimize liquid intake before sleep and avoid both alcohol and stimulating substances, such as coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate late in the day, because these disrupts your sleep time.
- Avoid big or spicy meals, sugary foods, and refined carbs just before bedtime.
- Try to get at least two hours of sunlight a day.
- Do aerobic exercise to tire your body and avoid making it before bedtime.
- If you’re retired, try to be busy: volunteering, joining a seniors’ group or taking an adult education class in order to reduce isolation.
- Try to use your bedroom only for sleep and make it comfortable: quiet, dark, with a perfect temperature. If you are sensitive to noise or light you can use earplugs or a sleep mask.
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