The majority of older folk say that they don’t sleep well – as many as three out of four. If you count yourself among the poor sleepers, you may need some snooze tips. Begin by making your bedroom into a pleasant, restful and delightful room.
- A sweet smelling, clean, fresh bed is an invitation to sleep well and sleep soundly. Launder bed linen often and have doonas and blankets washed two or three times a year.
- Renew or have pillows cleaned annually, vacuum the mattress and electric blanket regularly. Dusty beds and bedding provide a home for dust mites which are always with us but we must do our best to reduce the presence of these critters.
Remove the TV and ban all electronic gadgets from the bedroom. Decorate with soft restful colours. Darken the bedroom at night with a blackout blind if necessary and if your street is noisy, use earplugs. We are told that a mattress needs renewing every eight years. Is yours past its use by date? Older folk tend to sleep hot, so adjust doonas and blankets so that you are perfectly comfortable temperature wise.
TIP: Friends tell me that they adore their new cellular cotton blankets; nice and warm, never too hot, never heavy.
Keep lighting soft – use bedside lamps and instal dimmer switches if you like. Always have a window open at least a little at night to bring in fresh air. Throw it open wide during the day and air the room thoroughly.
You may need to change your habits to help you sleep better.
- It’s recommended that you follow the same routine every night and so program your body to be preparing for sleep.
- Try to have reasonably active days – take some exercise, but not near to bedtime.
- We are advised to spend at least 30 minutes outdoors each day to boost serotonin which will then boost melatonin which prepares us for sleep when night comes. Google for more detail.
- Avoid coffee and alcohol before bed. A nightcap may help you drift off, but is bound to disrupt your sleep later during the night. A small mug of old fashioned Milo might be helpful.
- Can you take your main meal of the day around noon rather than in the evening? Retiring on a full stomach is not conducive to sound sleep.
- My friend Glenda swears by a warm shower before bed to help her sleep; not for me but worth trying.
- Limit drinks after 6.30pm so that you don’t have to get up in the “wee” small hours – weigh up the benefit of that bedtime Milo with a toilet visit in the early hours! But don’t become dehydrated trying to avoid nocturnal comfort stops.
- Restrict daytime naps to 15 minutes. Set the timer.
Try not to go to bed too early; your body likes to have about an hour to wind down before bed so put away the electronics and watch TV, read the papers, do the puzzles, scan a magazine, enjoy a DVD and relax into a sleepy mood.
TIPS FOR THE HOME STRETCH
- Instead of counting sheep as you lie in bed, waiting to drop off, try mentally re-decorating a friend’s house in detail. Start at the front door – you will probably be asleep before you’ve made over the entrance hall. Pick up where you left off if you wake during the night. This works really well for me.
- Another tried and true sleep inducer is to tense and relax your body bit-by-bit. Start with your feet – tense and relax the feet, the legs then progress up the body to arms and shoulders. With luck, you will have entered the land of nod before you reach the neck and face.
- If you worry about things that have to be attended in the future, keep a note pad and pen on the bedside table; turn on the lamp and make a note – reduces the stress of trying to remember. This will save a lot of tossing and turning and sleeplessness.
- Lavender goes hand-in-hand with sleep, so keep a lavender bag under your pillow to help you feel drowsy. Squeeze it each night to release the perfumed oils and team with lavender hand lotion; surround yourself with languid lavender perfume.
- If your partner snores, buy him a shaped, anti-snore pillow. Works perfectly at my place
- Experts suggest that you do not spend too much “awake” time lying in bed. Get up as soon as you wake up and face the clear light of day – condition the body to associate being in bed with being asleep, not awake.
- Even if you are a skeptic, try a herbal supplement especially formulated for poor sleepers and apply positive thinking; if mind-over-matter comes into play it is a plus.
You might go as far as using a specially designed app to track sleep patterns and maybe find a link with your lifestyle, RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) can be a nuisance and interrupt sleep – a magnesium supplement is often recommended. If all else fails and you are at the end of your tether, have your GP refer you to a clinic for sleep disorders.
Remember that even if we are wakeful in bed, we are resting. The amount of sleep needed will vary from person to person, but over 60s probably need less sleep than they did when younger. About six or seven hours of deep sleep plus about two hours of dozing is considered normal for 60 year olds.
There is no lovelier experience than preparing for bed in your softly lamplit bedroom, snuggling into your most comfortable bed made up with exquisite bed linen and then drifting off to sleep. Goodnight.