They say that youth is wasted on the young, and that's probably true, but I don't want my youth back, I want my ability to sleep through a night back. Sure, when I was young I used to complain all the time about being tired, but that was before I knew what tired really was.
If you find yourself in agreement then you're probably an older person who spends too much time tossing and turning too. Don't be worried, we're far from the only people to spend restless nights. In fact, almost every person will get as much as 1.5 fewer hours of sleep by the time they reach 50.
That bites doesn't it?
It's also a myth that we need less sleep as we age, we still need the same 8 hours that we always have, we just happen to get less of it.
Right around the age you find yourself with enough time to sleep you'll lose the ability to. Hilarious. It's not just a big cosmic joke though, there's actually a scientific reason you're sleeping less - and also scientific ways to help you sleep better.
The Reasons Why
Aches and Pains
There are actually a few reasons why you get less sleep as you age. First and foremost is something you probably already know. Those aches and pains you feel during the day? Yeah those continue into the night and make it a lot harder to fall asleep.
If you've ever taken medication in your life you know that insomnia or drowsiness are two of the most common side-effects, but they are far from the only ones that affect your sleep. In fact, many medications can stop your brain from reaching REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). That's the part of the sleep cycle where our brain gets its best rest.
There's more reasons why you're not sleeping on the next page, and they aren't what you think.
What You Eat
Obviously when your bodies aren't happy they're going to keep you up, and by now you've definitely learned to stay away from obvious things, like coffee, that will keep you awake. It's not just caffeine that will make you alert though - here are some foods that will hurt your sleep, stay away from them!
Your mood is one of the biggest factors to how you're sleeping. Excitement, anxiety, anger, sadness. Any one of these things can keep our eyes open, and learning to deal with these everyday emotions is key to a good night's sleep. If you're really struggling to get your winks in though, it may be a sign of a more severe mental problem - especially if you can't keep still.
Ever wonder why it's harder to fall asleep after travelling or moving time zones? Or why it's not easy to sleep during the day, even though we're in a dark room. Our brains actually keep track of our sleep cycle using something called Circadian Rhythm. It makes us sleepy at night, and more awake during the day, but here's the thing, the rhythm drifts as we age.
Most older adults will start to get naturally sleepy earlier in the evening, and wake up earlier more naturally in the morning. You might want to try adjusting your schedule if you're having trouble sleeping, it might be all you need.
For how much we love food, it sure does cause a lot of problems. It's not just discomfort in the stomach either, because when we have a grumpy belly it will also affect our sleep. Heartburn, especially severe heartburn, gets more common as we age, and it's also one of the main reasons for staying awake.
How to start sleeping better on the next page!
Okay that was a lot of bad news, and I'm sorry, but now here's the good news! For almost every reason why you stay awake, there's a solution on how to get to sleep!
One of the main things that's worked for me comes highly recommended by sleep experts: set a routine. Doctors say that engaging in the same behavior an hour before sleep will help the brain recognize signs that sleep is coming. It will start the process of powering down earlier, meaning you spend less time awake in your bed.
This goes beyond the normal brushing your teeth. Read a book, do some stretches, pet your dog. Anything that isn't too exerting could make a good sleep routine. Just a note: stay away from exercising. Increased heart rate will make it harder to sleep.
Watch What You Eat/Drink
Like we talked about briefly, certain foods or drinks will make it harder to sleep. The idea of a night cap sounds great, but alcohol actually blocks REM sleep. Meaning even if it does get you to bed, you're probably having a less restful sleep.
Soak Up The Sun
The sun helps our bodies metabolize Vitamin D, which helps our bodies get to sleep in a natural way. Some sun in the afternoon will go a long way to helping you konk out when you want to.
Were you happy when I said don't exercise? Sorry to break it to you, but that was only during at night. Some exercise during the day will improve your mood, tire out the body, and thus make you more sleepy at night. Most experts recommend exercise in the morning to both wake up from the night, and help us be tired when it's bed time.
Beds Are For Sleeping
The bed is a magical place, and so so comfy, but we really should only be using it to sleep. That means no TV watching, no scrolling on your phone, and no not even reading. You want your brain to associate bed time with sleep time.
Mental games have a place, and that place is in trying to help you sleep. If you can trick yourself into thinking about something other than the fact you aren't sleeping, you'll be that much closer to sleep. You've heard of counting sheep? Don't do that. What you're really looking for isn't something boring, it's more hypnotic. Picture a black hair, on a black cat, laying on a black pillow, on a black couch zzzZZZZZ.