The older we get, the more often we get insomnia. It takes power, has a bad effect on health, mood and appearance. Both men and women are at risk. How to restore a full night’s rest without pills? Here are some practical suggestions for doctors and psychiatrists who research sleep problems.
fter a sleepless night, we do not look well, we feel a breakdown and grumbling, like all seven gnomes combined. With age, forced night wakefulness and dull mornings occur more often – years change not only the body, but also sleep patterns. Women during menopause are especially prone to this, when hot flashes and other symptoms prevent normal sleep.
“In adulthood, there is a tendency to reduce hours of sleep,” said Dr. Karen Carlson, director of the Women’s Health Association of Central Massachusetts Hospital. There are changes in the regulation of circadian (daily) rhythms of the body. This internal clock helps the body respond to the alternation of daylight and dark. When rhythms shift with age, difficulties may arise with falling asleep and the duration of sleep.
From time to time, everyone may have trouble sleeping, but when insomnia becomes regular, this is already a problem. In addition to feeling tired and having a bad mood, serious health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, can be its consequences.
In some cases, doctors prescribe medications to regulate sleep, but the drugs have side effects: changes in appetite, dizziness, drowsiness, discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract, dry mouth, headaches and strange dreams. Harvard experts say that medications can and should be taken if necessary, but this should only be done as directed and under the supervision of a competent physician. In addition to tablets, there are simple and affordable for almost everyone ways to correct the quality of sleep.
To improve the quality of sleep, University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Seth Gillian recommends practicing outdoor walks. He refers to a recent study in which adults participated, sleeping on average about seven hours a day. They were divided into two groups – the first was given the task of going through at least 2,000 steps per day, activity in the second group did not increase. Both groups were given fitness gadgets with an accurate pedometer. At the end of the experiment, scientists compared the participants’ feedback on the quality and duration of their sleep.
The first results of the study showed that the inclusion of walks in the daily schedule leads to improved sleep. However, this concerned only women and only quality, and the duration of sleep remained the same.
Available during walks, natural light helps the body regulate those same circadian biorhythms
Further, more complex studies revealed that the walk had a beneficial effect on both women and men in those cases when a person took more steps than his own daily daily norm. In other words, if physical activity exceeds the usual level familiar to us, we have a chance to sleep well. At the same time, it also matters that for such an effect a calm activity is required that does not require strong stress. That is, an evening run or a solid power load is not suitable for this purpose.
This can be encouraging for those whose physical abilities are limited and good motivation for people who are too lazy to move a lot, says Seth Gillian.
Why does a walk improve sleep quality? Scientists have not yet found a definite answer, but Dr. Gillian offers several explanations. So, natural light available during walks helps the body regulate circadian biorhythms. Exercise helps reduce stress and improve overall well-being. In addition, comfortable socialization, if the walk is not done alone, improves mood. All of these factors help maintain a healthy sleep.
7 TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
Harvard scientists offer simple tips for those who suffer from insomnia.
Physical activity can help those who have trouble sleeping. It contributes to the production of melatonin – the “sleep hormone”. According to a study by Sleep magazine, postmenopausal women fell asleep faster if they devoted at least 3.5 hours per week to exercise.
It is important to consider that evening classes can have the opposite effect and interfere with restful sleep, which is why Dr. Carlson and her colleagues consider the morning hours to be an ideal time for physical activity. And for the evening, a calm walk is just right.
2. Use the bed only for sleep
Researchers of sleep problems do not recommend using the bed as an “office”: for telephone conversations and correspondence. Late TV views are also undesirable. “Bed space should stimulate sleep, not wakefulness,” says Karen Carlson.
And this space should be as comfortable as possible: ideally, darkened and cool. This contributes to good sleep.
3. Follow the bedtime ritual
In childhood, we were put to bed with a whole set of daily repeating activities, including, for example, reading a bedtime story. Adults also need to develop a ritual for a good sleep, which will prepare the body for rest. “This is a signal for the body and mind, indicating that it is time to tune in to sleep. Drink a glass of warm milk. Take a bath. Listen to calm music to relax, ”Dr. Carlson recommends.
4. Eat, but in moderation
Going to bed with an empty stomach is just as harmful as with a full one. Experts recommend eating at least two to three hours before bedtime. But if hunger overcomes, it is better to eat an apple with a slice of cheese or a couple of whole-grain crackers so that the body calmly waits for breakfast.
5. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Wine and chocolate are an inappropriate snack before bedtime. The latter contains stimulating caffeine, and alcohol, contrary to popular belief, does not help, but significantly reduces sleep time. For the same reason, do not eat citrus fruits at night or eat spicy foods – it enhances blood circulation and accelerates heart rate.
6. Try to relax
Unpaid bills, a to-do list and complicated conversations are best left for tomorrow. Dr. Carlson recalls that stress is a stimulating factor; it activates the hormones of the “hit or run” mechanism, which is incompatible with restful sleep. Therefore, in the evening, it is important to give yourself time to exhale and, perhaps, perform some relaxing practices to reduce anxiety. For example, you can just breathe deeply, consciously and slowly, inhaling and exhaling.
7. Check your health
The need to move legs, snoring, and burning in the stomach, chest, or throat can be symptoms, for example, restless legs syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux. If such manifestations interfere with normal sleep, it’s time to consult a doctor and check your health.
Improving the quality of life is often in our hands. Caring for a good night’s rest can be quite pleasant. A sound sleep and a good morning mood help meet the events of the day in a more stable state, solve problems more successfully and feel much happier.