A Good Night’s Sleep
~ By Kirsten Antony R.N. ~
As we age, the ability to get a good night’s sleep decreases. Circadian rhythms change as we age. This can be a normal change in sleep patterns- usually changing to sleeping earlier in the evening and rising earlier in the morning. This is common and most people still tend to get the required 7-8 hours of sleep as long as there aren’t any other sleep disturbances during the night.
When might we know when we have a real sleep disorder? Symptoms of insomnia may include fatigue, mood disturbances, low energy, and trouble concentrating. Insomnia by definition is difficulty falling or staying asleep. We all may have bouts of acute insomnia due to a stressful event time to time, but chronic insomnia is all together a different issue. Chronic insomnia is the inability to fall or stay asleep at least three times a week for three or more months. This is a condition that should be discussed with a medical professional. There could be an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, auto immune disorders, diabetes or changes in hormone levels.
If you don’t suspect any underlying medical conditions, here are some simple and natural alternatives to try.
- Sleep environment. To activate the sleep hormone, melatonin, the body needs darkness. Keep the bedroom dark in the nighttime, but have natural light coming through in the morning. This helps release the hormone, cortisol, which will help wake you up naturally. The ideal temperature for sleeping is around 60-65 degrees F. Cool conditions are best for a good night’s sleep. White noise such as a fan whirling in the background can be useful as well as a new technique called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. These are recordings of quiet sounds like whispering, tapping and crackling fire which can help with restlessness.
- Relaxation Methods. Breathing exercises can help with relaxation and tension release. One method is breathing in through the nose and holding for three seconds and then breathing out the mouth for three seconds. Pause for three seconds before repeating and try for ten minutes. Meditation can be useful in calming the mind if stress seems to be the culprit of the sleepless nights. Letting go of thought is the main objective with meditation along with focus on breath. Visualization is also a great technique. There are variety of audio recordings available to discover.
- Aromatherapy and Herbs. Lavender is a popular essential oil to use for encouraging sleep and relaxation. Along with lavender, other oils to promote relaxation are rose, sandalwood, neroli, lemon balm and basil. These oils can be used many ways, one of which is in a diffuser which can be placed near the bed. Herbal remedies for inducing sleep might include hops, chamomile, and valerian.
These are just a few ideas to keep in mind when getting ready for bed. Please do consult with a medical professional if you are concerned about chronic insomnia. Any current medications should be kept in consideration when using complimentary methods of self-treatment.
Kirsten Antony is a Registered Nurse and Certified Reflexologist. Kirsten is a holistic health care practitioner and specializes in foot and nail care. She provides care in the Metro-Denver area at facilities and also makes house calls. For more information please visit www.kirstenantony.com or call 303-668-8992.