April 3rd, 2017
I’m the owner of The Waters – An Urban Spa Retreat and one of my personal goals is to age gracefully. This means being happy with who you are, how you feel and how you look at every age. For me, feeling my best is only possible when I’m well rested. Some people can get by on a few hours of sleep per night, but I am not one of them! I need a minimum of 7 and a half hours of sleep a night in order to be a reasonable human being to be around. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. I’m not proud to say that I get a bit of a “snippy” attitude when I’m overtired. The good news is that I know this about myself and so does my family, so no one gets in my way when it’s time to hit the hay! Aside from a better attitude, there are a multitude of other reasons you need to get enough sleep. I’m sure none of this is new to you, but it’s a good reminder to MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY!
Global News released information about three separate studies from 2016 – about a third of Canadians report feeling as though they don’t get enough sleep, and a third of Canadian children are sleep deprived. In case you haven’t heard, lack of sleep leads to
- Irritability. I know I’m not alone here!
- The inability to think clearly. We’ve all been there – more sleep = a smarter you.
- Poorer memory. Your recall is hindered when your brain is fuzzy.
- The potential to lose your marbles. Want to stay cool as a cucumber? You’d better not be overtired!
- Lower pain threshold. Pain is more apparent when you are tired.
- A depressed immune system. You will be more susceptible to getting sick, cold sores or other illnesses.
- Increased likelihood of getting into an accident. Vehicle-related accidents or even a verbal slip-up at work – both can get you into a lot of trouble!
- Serious health problems. Specifically heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity.
- Reduced libido and sex drive. If you’re too tired, well….
So what can we do to get more sleep? Here are 10 handy tips you can take to bed:
- Be more active during the day. Just like dogs, if we don’t move enough throughout the day, our bodies are simply not tired. So stay active! Studies suggest that walking is as good as running, so go for a walk! Thirty minutes of movement per day at a minimum – just do it! (Where have I heard that before?)
- Limit daytime naps. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE NAPS! Take them when you are catching up on missed sleep or when you are under the weather, of if it’s Mother’s Day! Studies show that power naps of 10 to 20 minutes can boost energy and alertness for the rest of the day. If you really need to catch up, try a 90 minute snooze (plus time to fall asleep) so that you go through a complete REM cycle – any less and you may wake up groggy.
- Watch what you eat and drink. Rich foods, caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants (especially before bedtime) can impede your ability to fall asleep and sleep soundly.
- Make use of a Parking Lot. By this I mean that sometimes you are unable to deal with issues immediately. The last thing you want is to take heavy thoughts to bed. I’m certainly not saying you should bottle things up permanently (that leads to all kinds of health problems), but find ways to set your deep thoughts or burning issues aside for the time being. Keep a notepad, write reminders in your calendar, or compose an email that you plan to send the next day so that your ideas have been laid out and no longer need to occupy your mind.
- Power down later in the evening. TV, laptops and mobile screens emit light and, combined with the cognitive stimulation, can keep our brain active long after the lights are off. Sending emails late in the evening may not be the best approach to winding down. Try to have darker, quieter time an hour or so before bed, whenever possible. Place your phone multiple feet away from you during the night so that you’re not bombarded by electromagnetic radiation. Or turn devices to airplane mode.
- Meditate. By the word “meditate” I mean to find ways to calm the mind and relieve tension. You can achieve this a variety of forms – from actual “focus on your breath” meditation in the evening, to calming yoga moves such as the child’s pose, to quiet time with a cup of herbal tea – just take some time to clear your mind before bed.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. This seems obvious – your body gets used to your own rhythmic pattern and it can take a number of days to get back on track if you break it your pattern.
- Build a nest. I have friends (a couple) who call their bed their ‘happy place.’ Make sure your space is good for sleep – clean, comfortable, cozy, quiet (or white noise), dark and safe.
- Ritualize your bedtime. Doing the same thing every evening before bed sends messages to your brain that it’s sack time. This should be a calm and quiet activity that induces relaxation. Many people read before nodding off, some people listen to quiet music. My own personal routine is a lengthy one and I stick to it as though I have OCD. My face cleansing, tooth brushing, foot washing and lotion routine takes me about a half hour. It really is a ritual that I follow no matter how tired I am. As a matter of fact, my body is so used to this pre-sleep ritual that I cannot wash my face long before bed time, say before watching a family movie, because once my face is washed I will simply fall asleep. I’m just like one of Pavlov’s dogs!
- Make sure your “family” is nicely tucked away. Younger kids, older kids, dogs or cats, make sure everyone is taken care of before you start into your bedtime routine so it’s your time to unwind.
I would be remiss not to mention that, as we age gracefully, optimal sleep can become a more difficult thing to come by. Easier said than done, right? Increased life stressors are certainly a factor, as is the need to visit the ladies’ room more often. As we age, we spend fewer hours in the deeper stages of sleep – being a “light” sleeper brings its own set of difficulties. Health issues can also affect our sleep, as can the annoyances that come with menopause (like hot flashes). While it may not be a breeze to get a good night’s sleep as we grow gracefully wiser, by following the proper steps we can certainly spend more time in Dreamland!