Falling asleep and staying asleep (not to mention getting up in the morning) can be significant issues in midlife.The benefits of restful sleep include improved mood, a stronger immune system, improved memory, better weight control, and even more youthful-looking skin. In contrast, poor sleep quality can wreak havoc on physical, emotional, and mental health, and has even been linked to early mortality. Today I’m sharing my eight sleep tips for more restful nights. (These have worked for me!)
1. Exercise in the Morning
Doctors agree that the closest thing we have to a magic pill is exercise. Cardio is critical for heart health, weight control, and stamina. Strength training is important if you’re over 50 for bone health, taming the challenges of menopause, and recharging your metabolism. But if sleep is a challenge for you, be sure you’re not exercising within three hours of bedtime. Why? Exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which stimulates the brain.
2. If You’re a Napper, Nap Early & Lightly
Napping is proven to be a potent mood-booster, to increase creativity and also productivity. (In fact, a 1995 study found that the benefits of a nap lasted longer than those from caffeine.) But if you’re going to nap, and you don’t want it to interfere with your nighttime sleep, do it briefly, early in the afternoon, and at a set time every day. I nap for 20-30 minutes at about 1 p.m. every day. Yes, I am like a small toddler.
3. Limit Fluids in the Evenings
To avoid nighttime trips to the bathroom, drinking 1-2 hours before bed, as well as in the night is a no-no. I drink a dessert tea right after dinner (It tastes just like a cookie, but without the calories!), and then that’s it. If I’m thirsty, that means I didn’t drink enough during the day, and I need to do better tomorrow.
4. No Screens Late at Night
The blue wavelengths our devices emit disrupt our circadian rhythms. I’ve had to stop using my laptop in bed at night because the mental stimulation of being on my devices was just too much for me. To curb the problem of late-night texts from my kids, I toggled on the Night Shift setting on my iPhone and iPad. To do this, go to Settings>Display & Brightness>Night Shift. You can set it manually, but I set mine to go on and off at regular times.
5. Do Something to Relax
I like a warm bath with my favorite Epsom salt soak, followed by a good book. (I love the one pictured above, but for my current read, click here.) What I’ve learned that I can’t do is watch TV, Netflix, or have long phone conversations with my kids right before bedtime.
6. Block out Noise and Light
7. Curb Hot Flashes: Wear Socks to Bed
While sleep is important for regulating hormone levels, ironically, it’s often interrupted by the symptoms caused by changing hormones themselves! Wearing socks to bed can help because it lowers your core body temperature, which is sleep-inducing. An added bonus? I use these aloe-infused socks and slather on this lotion with urea to moisturize my feet and get rid of rough spots.
8. Take Sleep Seriously
Once my nest emptied, I realized that I needed to start taking my sleep more seriously. That meant that I needed to think about it, plan for it, and be diligent about it, just like I am with my nutrition, hydration, and exercise. To that end, one thing I did was throw out some of my ratty sleep, um, ensembles, and replace them with breathable sleepwear that helped with hot flashes, and that I looked forward to putting on at the end of the day. My favorites? Anything from the Cool Nights Collection at Soma! They’re cool and breathable, which is great for this hot-flashes midlifer.
I hope I’ve given you some good ideas as I’ve shared the sleep tips that have worked for me. What are your best sleep tips? Please share!
Until then, as we say in our family…