Good sleep is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy body for longevity. Unfortunately, sleep is often the first place people try to cut during stressful situations or in order to fit more into their busy days.
However, cutting back on sleep is one of the worst things you can do. As you sleep, your body does much more than just rest. In fact, as you’re off in dreamland, your body is working hard to replace hormones and brain chemicals, and also to repair soft tissues, including skin and muscles.
Good sleep is critical to good health. You need more of it, and here are five tips to help you get the most restful sleep at any age.
1. Create Your Favorite Place
The environment of your bedroom should be calming, comfortable, and a place that you want to be. In order to create a bedroom that feels like a sleeping sanctuary, remove any stressors that irritate your five senses. The National Sleep Foundation suggests creating a bedroom that gently appeals to your sense of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and even taste. In order to do this, shop for high-quality bedding that is comforting to your skin, and decorate in colors that are soft on your eyes. Download a sleep app for nature sounds to ease you into a deep, relaxed state. You can even opt for sleep-inducing essential oil bed spritzers. To make one, simply mix 15-20 drops of your favorite calming essential oil in a spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide. This bed spray not only disinfects your bedding, but it also rocks you to sleep by stimulating the olfactory nerve in your nose with plant essences proven to promote restful sleep. The best essential oils for sleep include lavender, Roman chamomile, and rose.1
2. Tune Out
It is very common for people today to take their smartphones, iPads, and other mobile devices into the sack with them to read at night. But what you may not know is that the specific form of light emitted by these types of screens has been shown in clinical studies to disrupt the natural sleep pattern in healthy, young participants.2 Known to emit a short-wavelength (blue) light that directly disrupts a normal circadian rhythm, these devices should be turned off at bedtime.
3. Skip the Nightcap
Many adults unwind at the end of a long day with an alcoholic beverage. However, when they try to lie down and sleep after a nightcap – they can’t. This is because while alcoholic beverages relax the body, they also act as a stimulant to the brain. Researchers have found that younger people who sleep after drinking alcohol suffer from a loss of short-wave functions in the brain, resulting in lower-quality sleep.3
4. Eat Healthy Foods
For older adults, sleeplessness can become a major issue after the age of 60. This is because as we age, the production of melatonin naturally declines. This vital brain chemical is responsible for regulating sleep/wake cycles, also known as the circadian rhythm.
The result of age-related melatonin loss leaves many older adults struggling to fall asleep, waking repeatedly during the night, and waking up feeling groggy. It is a common issue, and simple dietary changes may help. Here are just a few melatonin-boosting foods to add to your diet: pineapple, bananas, oranges, oats, sweet corn, rice, barley, tomatoes, and cherries.
One study showed that consuming tart, Montmorency cherry juice was associated with an increase in melatonin production, as well as improvements in sleep quality and duration.4
5. Mindfully Meditate
There are many different ways to ease your mind into a restful state besides counting sheep. In fact, a short 5-minute meditation can help to quiet the mind of thoughts, and slowly ease you into sleep, reducing mental anxiety and physical stress.5
Here is just one clinically proven mindful meditation to help you get the best sleep, at any age:
· Lie in bed with a straight posture, facing upwards towards the ceiling. Allow your hands to rest open-palmed any place you find comfortable.
· Take 1-2 minutes to simply observe your body, as your breath rises and falls like the tides of the ocean.
· For the next three minutes, practice mindful breathing. For one minute, inhale through both nostrils and exhale through your mouth.
· After one minute, practice nostril breathing. To do this, place your index finger over the left nostril as you inhale through the right. Then, exhale through your mouth.
· Repeat this exercise on the opposite side, plugging your right nostril and exhaling through your mouth.
· As you end the meditation, return to inhalations through both nostrils, exhaling out of your mouth. Use this time to once again observe the sensations in your body as your breath moves through your belly.
· During this time, notice the thoughts in your mind. Usually after a meditation like this, thoughts quiet down enough to sleep easily. If not, continue with this mediation for as long as you like.
It’s estimated that in the U.S., about 50-70 million adults suffer from some type of sleep/wakefulness disorder.6 And older adults (over 60) may find it even more difficult to get the rest they need. If you are one of the millions of Americans not getting the rest you need to get through your day, try these five tips for better, more restful sleep. Go on now … and get to bed!
1. Goel N, Kim H. An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiol Int. 2005;22(5):889-904.
2. Mark R. Smith, Charmane I. Eastman. Delaying the Human Circadian Clock with Blue-Enriched Polychromatic Light. Chronobiol Int. 2009 May; 26(4): 709–725.
3. Julia K.M. Chan, John Trinder. The Acute Effects of Alcohol on Sleep Electroencephalogram Power Spectra in Late Adolescence. 16 January 2015.
4. Howatson G, Bell PG. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec;51(8):909-16.
5. David S. Black, PhD, MPH, Gillian A. O’Reilly, BS.Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Apr 1; 175(4): 494–501.
6. Institute of Medicine. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2006.