...ay, there’s the rub – the rub for us seniors, that is.* Very rarely can we say we slept like a baby because we usually sleep like a senior. Many or most nights we have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Some studies say that a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep, others say it’s about 49%. Wherever you look they’re throwing numbers at the problem. Our well-being and our ability to sleep change as we age. We all know that good sleep is essential to our health, but how much we need is an individual thing. An exact amount of sleep may not really matter. Sleep studies now show that it is normal for seniors to awaken for up to an hour during the night. Even that time varies from person to person.
The National Sleep Foundation celebrates National Sleep Week each year in March. (or: - The Better Sleep Council designates May as Better Sleep Month.) It might be the ideal time to change your bedtime routines. Here are some you may want to try. As someone’s Mama might have said: “It couldn’t hurt.”
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing
Before you turn off the bathroom light, flush your worries so they don’t come in to bed with you. Don’t worry about the kids and grandkids. Lying awake to worry on their behalf won’t make any difference in the long run. Try not to think about health problems: worrying about them isn’t an accepted medical treatment. Don’t make any major decisions while you’re trying to get to sleep. Make decisions just after waking up when your brain is fresh.
The mind’s eye is a useful tool. Don’t just lie there: think of something. Try reading an interesting article before bedtime. Read a bit from magazines like Smithsonian, National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, or whatever publication caters to your interests. Think about any recent book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen: what happened after The End? Revisit great places you’ve visited or rerun great times you’ve had with family or friends. Start the plot outline for a book you could write. (You might want to keep a pad and lighted pen on your night stand.) As you prepare for bed be planning the topic for your train of thought – let the train take you away into sleep.
Don’t Knock it if You Haven’t Tried It
Eat two slices of bread before bed – before you brush your teeth, of course. Just bread, no butter or jam, but maybe a teaspoon or two of honey which is said to be a sleeping aid.
Sleep in the buff. Nightgowns and PJ’s can be constricting and lumpy, and you have to fight with them when you turn over, and you get aggravated and…! Try a night without them.
Keep cool. Turn down the thermostat at night in the warm weather. Which comes first: your sleep and your health or the electric bill? Keep cool in winter too.
Move the alarm clock. Turn its face away from you so that you don’t watch the clock and agonize over all the time you think you’ve been awake. Ignorance is bliss.
Get rid of your old-faithful easy chair. If you’re one of those who fall asleep in front of the TV in your comfy chair, you’re robbing yourself of proper sleep in bed. Rearrange your living room if you necessary. If TV bores you to sleep, why watch it? If you’re falling asleep, go to bed. You might want to change your regular bedtime to an earlier hour.
When we were little we usually had to take a nap, especially if we were doing something special that night. Mom always told us that we didn’t have to sleep but did have to rest. Nine times out of ten we’d fall right to sleep. Don’t worry about sleeping – get worry off your mind: just rest. Try some of the sleep routine-shaking changes above. They might just work for you.
* This is another of the essays I've recently submitted to the community magazine, so when I am referring to us seniors its because we are a community of seniors. I originally posted this on the bog back in June 2011. It still holds true.