As we age, it is common for us to experience changes in sleeping patterns. Some of us experience a greater fragmentation in sleep characterised by frequent episodes of wakefulness throughout the night. Some of us have a harder time falling asleep than we used to. These situations can result in us feeling tired during the daytime.
Our need for sufficient high-quality sleep does not lessen as we age; we still need plenty of sleep in order for our wounds to heal, for our bodies to repair themselves, for our hormones to be properly regulated and for successful completion of countless other bodily functions that sleep facilitates.
If you notice that you're not sleeping as peacefully as you used to, we offer the following 4 helpful tips for your consideration.
1. Avoid consuming caffeine after 4pm
You're no doubt aware caffeine can give you an energy boost that is counterproductive to sleep. Scientific research demonstrates that the effects of caffeine linger in the body longer than you might think. Caffeine will disrupt your sleep even if you consume it up to 6 full hours before bedtime. So, if you drink a cup of caffeinated coffee with your evening meal, you can count on it leading to sleep disruptions later that night. If you go to bed at 10pm, it's wise to make 4pm your cut-off point for consuming caffeine in any form.
2. Choose a healthy mattress, pillow and bedding
Your mattress and pillow can either support you in peaceful sleep, or they can interfere with it. If you aren't sleeping well, it's worth investigating how your bedding could be improved.
If you often find yourself waking with a headache or a case of dizziness, a toxic mattress could be to blame. If you purchased your mattress prior to 2005, it would be wise to replace it. This is because older mattresses are likely to contain toxic flame retardant chemicals. These toxic chemicals are not manufactured in Australia, and Australians stopped importing them in 2005. They are still ubiquitous in some other countries, notably the United States.
Your mattress and pillow aren't the only factors to consider. Your sheets can also influence the quality of your sleep. On hot nights in Australia, experts at the Sleep Health Foundationrecommend avoiding synthetic sheets and synthetic blends in favour of natural fibres, particularly cotton. This is because varying thermal properties of some fibres can cause you to become sweaty and agitated on hot nights – and this can especially be an issue when you sleep on synthetic sheets.
Bamboo sheets are another excellent option to consider if night sweats often cause you discomfort while sleeping. Bamboo's unique fibre structure wicks away moisture and keeps you both drier and cooler than you'd be if sleeping on synthetic sheets.
3. Understand and respect your own unique circadian rhythms
Maximising your own unique circadian rhythmscould help you to improve your sleep quality, energy levels and all around productivity. Think of it as helping to give your own internal body clock a positive boost.
You can help your body by forming a daily, habitual routine that involves waking and sleeping in a predictable pattern. Schedule your daily exercise routine in the early morning or afternoon hours. Avoid exercising late in the day, because exercise shortly before bedtime can disrupt your circadian rhythms and interfere with your ability to easily fall asleep.
4. Get treated for any sleep disorders that ail you
If you try all of the above suggestions without seeing any improvement in your sleep, it would be beneficial to speak with your GP about it. It is possible that you might have a sleep disorder that will require professional treatment. Your GP can most likely help you diagnose and treat common issues such as snoring, sleep apnoea and restless legs syndrome. In cases where your issues may be beyond your GP's areas of medical expertise, she/he may refer you to one of Australia's qualified sleep specialists or sleep clinics.
Following these suggestions is likely to help put you back on track for sleeping peacefully every night.
Do you have any tips on how to get a better night’s sleep? Let us know in the comments below.
This article was written in partnership with Over60.