BY DARLA LORENZEN
“Though sleep is called our best friend, it is a friend who often keeps us waiting!” Jules Verne
Waking up after a restless night can leave people wondering who they are seeing in the mirror. Wrinkles, redness, puffiness, and bags under the eyes all result from lack of tissue repair that typically occurs when we get the recommended 7-9 hours of shut-eye. When we fall short, however, the results we see in the mirror can run more than skin deep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS) suggests sleeping less than seven hours each night can elevate the risk of weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke and depression. For older adults, not getting a good night’s sleep can also increase the risk of accidents and falls. Losing as little as two hours of sleep can affect concentration and memory, and those who feel tired and groggy from insufficient sleep are generally more irritable and, therefore, less happy.
People who struggle with insomnia may try over-the-counter sleep aids or prescription medications, but it’s important to talk to your doctor if it’s a new or ongoing problem. In the meantime, try making some lifestyle adjustments. You may get a better night’s sleep if you:
Embrace Life: Stay active and busy throughout the day so you’re tired at night. Socialize with friends and family, exercise, and work your brain.
Power Down: Internet, cell phones, television, and other electronic intrusions make it difficult to quiet our minds before bedtime, so limit electronic use before bed.
Keep It Dark: The electronic glow from tablets, cell phones, and televisions travels through the retina and into the area of the brain that controls and slows the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone we need to fall and stay asleep. Turn off the lights, including subtle illumination from cell phones, televisions, cable boxes, computers, and alarm clocks. If a night light is needed, purchase a plug-in light activated by a motion sensor.
Keep It Cool and Calm: The ideal temperature for optimum sleep is 68 degrees. Lather lotion on hands and feet with the soothing scent of lavender.
Get Comfortable: Sometimes bodies themselves limit sleep, so try using extra pillows to assist with body alignment. As bodies age, they may begin to ache, so side-sleepers can use a pillow between their knees to help hips stay aligned during sleep and provide relief. Back sleepers can find that a pillow under their knees can relieve back pain and pressure.
Think before you drink: Reconsider having a cocktail before bed, because while alcohol can initially create sleepiness, its effect may contribute to waking up in the middle of the night. Steer clear of caffeine, too, since it stays in your system for at least five hours. Those who find themselves troubled by bathroom trips during the night should consider cutting back on liquids consumed in the evening.
Above all else, relax, breathe, meditate, pray, and find a happy place. Doing so will go a long way in getting a good night’s sleep!
— Darla Lorenzen is healthcare administrator at Covenant Village of Turlock, a faith-based continuing care retirement community administered by Covenant Retirement Communities, the nation’s sixth largest not-for-profit senior services provider. Visit www.covenantvillageofturlock.org or Facebook to learn more, or call 877-834-1238.