How important is sleep to our centenarians? Apparently, even though sleep patterns can be challenging as we age (‘40% of the elderly have some type of sleep disorder that can result in physical and cognitive problems’ p.137), centenarians typically have regular sleep patterns and get seven to eight hours of restful, restorative sleep!
Would those words describe your sleep?
Why is Sleep so Important, Anyway?
If you can’t sleep, you can’t heal. If we don’t get enough deep sleep, we age prematurely and do not repair well. We’ll probably also be pretty grumpy and less productive than we could/should be!
Good sleep helps you
- maintain alertness and cognitive function (judgement)
- supports cellular repair
- supports protein synthesis
- optimizes our immune defenses
- maintain hormonal regulation (growth, libido, fat metabolism, mood)
Obesity and sleep deprivation are strongly connected. One of my early health mentors always asked a new weight management client about the number of hours they slept and she would not take them on as a client if they were not willing to increase their sleep hours! I didn’t understand that requirement at the time, but I have come to understand the necessity of good quality sleep on all aspects of wellness.
There are four stages of sleep, and every 90-110 minutes, those cycles are repeated. Stage 3, deep sleep, allows the body to restore and re-set the hormones. Stage 4 allows the brain to reorganize the events of the day into your long-term memory. Sleep cycles can vary somewhat with age, but there are a number of factors that will negatively impact our sleep.
What Can Prevent Quality Sleep?
Interestingly enough, our bodies are geared to the cycle of light. Specifically, the blue light of daylight is a signal for us to wake-up. Unfortunately, about 71% of us take our phones to bed with us…and 95% use some kind of digital device within an hour of going to bed. That exposure to digital blue light definitely will interrupt the cycle of serotonin production.
Many people will comment that they have difficulty ‘turning off their brains.’ I admit that it takes me longer to fall asleep when I have a project that I am working on because I will review details of what I have done and still have to do.
Additionally family obligations, challenging family relationships, lack of financial stability can also keep us awake. If someone is dealing with pain, s/he may toss and turn to try to find a more comfortable position. If you have a spouse that snores, you may not be able to fall asleep or stay asleep.
What are Some Sleep-help Options?
The statistics indicate that Americans could spend close to $52 BiLLiON dollars on sleep aids in 2020.
Sleep aids include special pillows, mattresses; pills, supplements to help you fall asleep; apps that track your sleep; apps that help you fall asleep, and on and on. For people with chronic insomnia, or medication-induced insomnia, there is always another medication, most of it habit-forming (addictive) and not easy to get off of.
Give yourself permission to take a nap to make up for lost sleep, but no longer than 30 min.
Get adequate exercise every day.
Check on medication that may be interfering with good sleep.
Check on hormone levels of estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, testosterone. Hormone levels definitely can impact your sleep.
Get your stress level under control with stress management strategies (future post- but you can feel free to call me this week to talk about what you can do right now).
One of the best suggestions I apply for myself is to have a regular sleep schedule: practice intentional sleep hygiene habits. These could include:
- Be active, but not energetic after dinner.
- Shut yourself off from all devices an hour before bedtime.
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Don’t eat after 7 pm (brushing your teeth early helps!). This habit can also help reduce acid reflux.
- Consider taking an herbal, natural, non-habit-forming product whose ingredients have been validated to help with sleep (melatonin, chamomile, ashwagandha, passion flower, hibiscus, GABA. (check out this product)
- Practice deep-breathing, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation when you are in bed.
- Wake up at the same time every morning. If you can function without an alarm clock, that’s a positive!
If you’re wondering about the supplements you are currently taking, you feel a need to upgrade your supplements, or you are wondering what supplements I’ve been recommending for the past 21 years, contact me (480.382.8255 phone/text; firstname.lastname@example.org email) and let’s set up an appointment (in person or zoom) to get you on track to a vital, vibrant and vivacious life!