15 Jun “A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.”
Trouble falling asleep? Hard to stay asleep? Common causes are anxiety and worry (the “ruffled mind” quotation above by Charlotte Brontë), aging, illness and medication, snoring, and sleep apnea.
As we get older, we tend to spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep, less time in deep sleep resulting in feeling tired during the day, and less time in dreaming. We may also be sleepier in the early evening and wake up earlier in the morning.
Getting a better sleep
Reduce caffeine intake, such as coffee and dark chocolate, especially from noon onwards.
Avoid boredom! Find interesting things to do during the day.
Reduce napping. For some people, a short nap (20 to 40 minutes) after lunch may help reduce sleepiness in the evening, but avoid long naps and late afternoon naps.
Get up and move around if you feel sleepy in early evening, but avoid vigorous exercise.
Be sure to get moderate exercise during the day, such as gardening or a brisk walk for 30 to 40 minutes. Physical activity is very helpful for improving the quality of sleep, and it also helps improve mood.
Spend time outdoors in the sunshine, to help set your sleep cycle. It also helps to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
Eat your meals at the same time every day, and avoid large, heavy meals in the evening.
Worry and anxiety may contribute to difficulty falling asleep. A strategy for distracting your mind, and to help you relax, is to focus on each and every breath. For each breath, blow out air for as long as you want, then breathe in through your nose for as long as you want. Keep bringing your attention back to your breathing, over and over again. This may also help you fall asleep again if you wake up in the night.
Try warm milk before you go to bed.
Avoid alcohol; it may help you fall asleep, but it also disturbs sleep later on.
If you’re still awake after 20 minutes, get up and do something quiet, such as light reading or listening to music. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed and try again. If you’re still awake after 20 minutes, do some more quiet activity.
See your doctor
If medication for physical or psychiatric illness is affecting sleep, your doctor may be able to adjust the timing and dose of the medication, or provide a different prescription. Medical expertise may also help with snoring, sleep apnea (stopping breathing during sleep) and various medical issues affecting sleep.
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