I can remember someone telling me that you go to bed earlier and wake up earlier when you get older and that you don’t need as much sleep as you get older. However, some scientific studies show that we could benefit from getting a similar amount of sleep as we get older but are not always able to achieve it. It has also been observed that older people don’t sleep as deeply, have less regular sleep and have different sleep cycles to younger people.
So what’s keeping us from sleeping deeply and regularly? It may be due to things that interact that are counter- productive to regular sleep.
Remember that we are psychologically and physically habit-forming by nature. This tendency can cause us to develop problems, but can also be used to embed good habits.
I have a tendency to stay up late and would like to rise late. I would have to say that it may be a habit I formed rather than a natural tendency though. When it is quieter at night I enjoy doing some hobby work, studying and watching some TV which in turn makes me feel like sleeping in. Can that change?
Over recent months I worked full time for a period of five weeks for a Government agency following a state disaster. I needed to get up quite early, work full days and get to bed early. I can remember thinking what a change that will be. Interestingly the combination of conditions allowed me to adjust more easily than I expected. Firstly, getting up early was made easier by the knowledge that the task I was doing was worthwhile. Getting to work required a train trip which allowed me time to read and gather my thoughts. The trip to and from the station required a 1 km walk each way which caused me to get some extra exercise. Sometimes quite a brisk walk when a train was held up. The days were very busy. All of this activity caused me to be ready for rest earlier. It was not so intense that I would develop some sort of severe discomfort which could prevent sleep. I took to wearing high quality joggers during the walk to and from work which made a huge difference.
So I ended up changing my sleep pattern a lot and after that time I found the new sleep cycle had become a habit, for a while at least.
Different factors can work in combination to change your sleep cycles so try to manage them to your advantage. Be aware of these things and plan ahead.
Here are some things that you might like to consider and manage in combination to get the results you want:
- If you have a sleeping problem, don’t try to solve it by yourself. See your doctor, sooner than later to avoid longstanding issues. Many conditions can be causing the problems and treatments are more readily available now to help overcome any problems
- Stabilize the time you go to bed and get up
- Have a small cup of warm milk, together with 1 teaspoon of honey is optional (and for me a bit of Blue Vein cheese but hey that’s just me)
- Get outside and see the daylight (but protect from UV)
- Reduce the light you expose yourself to later in the day and while trying to sleep. Turn house lighting down or off (which can save you money) and avoid bright TVs etc
- Keep the bedroom slightly cooler
- Ensure that you have the right pillow and mattress
- Beware of the toothpaste. Brush earlier as it usually has a breath freshening agent in it such as peppermint. Remember how peppermint sweets are given out in meetings to keep people awake!
- Limit eating too much at night
- Think about reducing exposure to computers, tablets, phones etc late at night as they increase light exposure and brain stimulation
- The medication you take can help and hinder your sleep. Seek medical advice about your medication. Note that the same medication can be helpful at some times and a hindrance at others. Sleep medication can have dangerous effects in combination with other drugs or Alcohol
- Exercise – increased exercise can make it easier to sleep but don’t overload yourself causing physical problems. Earlier in the day is better than later.
- Manage physical problems such as arthritis and joint problems. We know that pain can prevent or hinder sleep
- Reduce or eliminate napping through the day. If you do nap, try keeping it between 10 and 20 minutes and earlier in the day. Set an alarm to prevent over-napping.
- Keep yourself hydrated through the day so that you don’t have to drink more water at night
- Manage stimulants such as caffeine, and avoid later at night
- Eliminate nicotine
- Consider the effects of Alcohol
- Have a warm bath or shower to reduce muscle aches but do it earlier rather than later as it could wake you up
- Get things off your mind. Write thoughts down and then put aside for a more suitable time.
- Consider meditation, and prayer.
- Consider putting on soft relaxing music before sleeping to relax
- Once in bed, remember to use slow breathing to relax. Focus on your breathing, instead of thinking of other things.