Unlock the secret to a blissful night’s sleep

Mar 17, 2023
Lack of sleep can have serious consequences on our mental and physical health. Source: Getty Images.

It’s no secret that getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to support overall health and well-being.

Quality sleep helps your body repair and recover, enhances memory and mood, boosts energy levels, and promotes brain development and cardiac function.

Lack of sleep, on the other hand, can have serious consequences on our mental and physical health, ranging from decreased cognitive function to an increased risk of developing serious health problems.

However, there are natural remedies and methods you can use to improve your sleep quality and avoid these consequences. In an effort to help you drift off with ease and reap the benefits of good quality sleep, Starts at 60 explored the negative effects of lack of sleep and the effective natural remedies and methods to help you achieve a better night’s sleep.

Source: Getty Images.

What can cause a lack of sleep?

As we age, our sleep patterns often change, and it becomes more common to experience difficulty falling and staying asleep.

Sleep Expert Carmel Harrington, who has a PhD in Sleep Medicine explains that “from around the age of 20, deep sleep decreases continuously and in old age makes up only about 10 per cent of our total sleep time.”

“The decrease in deep sleep and dream sleep is counterbalanced by an increase in light sleep,” Harrington says.

“Because there is not as much deep slumber as in earlier years, an older person is often more easily aroused from sleep – leading to more awakenings during the night and to less efficient sleep. As a result, sleep sometimes seems to be less refreshing than in our younger years.”

Some of the most common causes of sleep deprivation in individuals over the age of 60 include:

  • Medical conditions such as chronic pain and arthritis.
  • Other factors such as medication side effects.
  • Lifestyle changes and changes in sleep patterns can also contribute to sleep disturbances.
  • Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder are also more prevalent in older adults and can significantly impact the quality of their sleep.
  • Additionally, age-related changes in the brain can affect the production of sleep hormones, making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.

CEO of The Banyans Healthcare, Ruth Limkin suggests the following as possible causes of a restless night’s sleep.

  • Using electronic devices before bed: The blue light emitted from electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. It’s important to avoid using these devices for at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Diet and lifestyle habits: Eating heavy meals or consuming alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime can interfere with sleep quality and disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

GO Healthy‘s resident sleep expert, Olivia Arezzolo explains that “pain is a huge factor, especially for those over 60.”

“Low levels of key sleep supportive minerals is also a primary issue for this age group too, contributing to poor quality sleep,” Arezzolo says.

“Excessive stimulation from too much light before bed – TVs or kindles for example; alcohol before bed, and insufficient movement – all are relevant here.”

Sleep expert and creator of Nigh Nigh Sleep Solutions, Deb Herdman spoke further regarding what habits can lead to a poor quality of sleep.

“Some people are sensitive to stimulants like caffeine-containing drinks or foods. Caffeine accumulates with every serve over the day and can make falling asleep hard. Smoking is a stimulant too so teach yourself not to smoke at bedtime,” Herdman explains.

“Alcohol is a depressant and although it might help you feel sleepy it causes disruption to sleep in the second half of your night and as it’s a diuretic you will likely feel like need to empty your bladder and feel thirsty.

“Eating late means you will be digesting food instead of your gut resting. Even body organs need their nighttime sleep to function well during the day.”

Source: Getty Images.

What lack of sleep really does to your body

Lack of sleep can have a variety of negative effects on our bodies. One of the most noticeable effects is decreased cognitive function. When we don’t get enough sleep, our ability to focus, pay attention, and make decisions can be impaired.

Lack of sleep can also have a negative impact on our mental health. In addition, chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.

Limkin is well aware of the negative effects that can come with lack of sleep or poor sleep and spoke further regarding the detrimental consequences that can result from poor sleep, particularly for people over 60. Some of which include:

  • Increased risk of falls: Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue and a decrease in motor coordination, which can increase the risk of falls, particularly in older adults.
  • Impaired cognitive function: Poor sleep can lead to difficulties with concentration, memory, and decision-making, which can impact daily functioning and increase the risk of accidents.
  • Weakened immune system: Poor sleep can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections and illnesses.
  • Mood disturbances: Lack of sleep can lead to irritability, mood swings, and depression, which can impact the overall quality of life and interpersonal relationships.

CEO, Respiratory and Sleep Specialist at Manse Medical, Dr Andrew Bradbeer “poor sleep contributes to other health problems, both physical and mental.”

“Pain problems are more difficult to control if sleep is not good. Symptoms of anxiety and depression are exacerbated,” Bradbeer explains.

“Memory problems, and probably even dementia, are worse if sleep is not good.  And some sleep disorders increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.  For all of these reasons, it’s very important for over 60s – ideally when they are in their 60s –  to have a sleep health check.”

Source: Getty Images.

Natural remedies to improve sleep quality

There are a number of ways that can help improve the quality of sleep, one of the most effective ways is to establish a regular sleep routine and stick to it. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends.

Certain natural supplements have been shown to improve sleep quality in some individuals. By incorporating these natural remedies and methods into your routine, you can improve your sleep quality and enjoy the many benefits of a good night’s rest.

If you’re struggling with sleep, Limkin highlights that there are several ways to promote good sleep without resorting to medication, particularly for those over 60.

Some remedies include:

  • Chamomile: A herb that has been traditionally used to promote relaxation and sleep. It can be taken as a supplement or brewed as a tea.
  • Magnesium: A mineral that can help calm the nervous system and promote relaxation.
    It can be found in foods like leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, taken as a supplement or used in a bath at night.
  • Lavender has a calming scent that can help promote relaxation and sleep. It can be used in
    essential oil form, added to a bath, or sprayed on a pillow.
  • Melatonin: A hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. It can be taken as a supplement,
    but it’s important to talk to a doctor before using it.

In addition, Arezzolo points to another helpful supplement that can aid over 60s in achieving quality sleep.

“Similarly, ashwagandha, another helpful sleep supplement, has also been found to reduce pain and act as an anti-inflammatory, which is of great value to those over 60 too,” Arezzolo explains.

Improving sleep hygiene for individuals over the age of 60 can be achieved by making changes to the sleeping environment and establishing a consistent sleep routine. Additional best practices that Limkin suggests include:

  • Having a fixed wake-up time and keeping a consistent evening routine: It helps to regulate the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) and improve sleep quality. It also helps to signal to the body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep and relaxation.
  • Manage stress: Stress and anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Engaging in relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help calm the mind and promote relaxation.
  • A comfortable sleep environment: Making changes to your sleeping environment can also help improve sleep quality. This may include investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows, using blackout curtains or an eye mask to reduce light, and keeping the bedroom cool and quiet.

“Just like we practice good hand hygiene, it’s important to pay attention to sleep hygiene as well,” Limkin adds.

“Having a strong sleep hygiene means you can set yourself up for better sleep and tailor your own sleep hygiene practices to suit your individual needs.”

If you’re struggling with sleep, try implementing some of the natural remedies discussed above. Establishing a consistent sleep routine, avoiding stimulants, creating a relaxing sleep environment, trying natural supplements, and exercising regularly can all help improve sleep quality and promote overall health and well-being.

If your sleep problems persist, be sure to talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be affecting your sleep.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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