Getting enough sleep is important to all areas of your health. According to a study from Harvard Medical School, “Chronic sleep loss can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power.” I know, if I don’t get enough sleep, it affects my mood and performance level.
Working at a senior living community, I am asked by residents, “how can you get the necessary sleep you need when you toss and turn and just don’t sleep well?” Some of the biggest concerns from seniors I hear about not sleeping well involve muscle cramps that wake them up, not being able to clear their minds to stay asleep and frequent trips to the restroom. I believe there are 5 key ways to get a more restful night’s sleep. I’ve shared these with my residents and I hope they can work for you as well.
- Drink Water Throughout the Day. When I am busy, I find I rarely get enough water throughout my day. By the time night comes, I am super thirsty. It is hard to get enough water close to bed. Not only that, if I drink a lot before bed, I find myself waking up to use the restroom, which interrupts my restful sleep. Another negative side effect to not drinking enough water is muscle cramps. Dehydration can increase the likelihood of muscle cramps while sleeping.
- Take a Warm Bath or Shower. I have heard this is because the warmth of the water increases your body temperature and when you sleep, your body temperature decreases. This may be true, but for me the reason a warm shower works is it relaxes my tight, tired muscles. The warmth releases tension and helps ease my aches and pains from daily activities and exercise.
- Stretch. This goes hand-in-hand with the warm shower. You can get a better night’s sleep when your muscles aren’t tight and painful. I have found light stretching in my bed before I close my eyes gets my body ready for sleep. I concentrate on lower body, hip, and back stretches. I hold each stretch for at least 30-60 seconds. I close my eyes, take long and deep breaths, and focus on relaxing the muscles as I stretch them.
- Breathe. This is very important while stretching, but deep breathing throughout the day also helps reduce stress. When I am frustrated or upset, taking three-four deep belly breaths helps me calm down and refocus. At night this deep breathing is good because it helps clear my mind. After I finish my stretching routine, I lie flat on my back with my eyes closed and focus on breathing. In yoga, this is called savasana or corpse pose. It is beneficial because it helps your memory, reduces heart rate and blood pressure, increases oxygen levels in your blood, reduces headaches, and helps improve your focus.
- Reduce the Distractions in your Bedroom. This is by far the hardest thing for me to practice. Turning off the TV, putting the book away, and not sleeping with my smart phone next to my bed have helped me go to sleep faster. Picking up my cell phone to check email, the weather, and social media means I stay awake longer than I need to. The noises and distractions can also interrupt restful sleep, so put them away.
Tonight, may you sleep soundly after a day of drinking water, taking a warm bath or shower, stretching, breathing, and relaxing without any distractions; Sweet Dreams!