There is no doubt that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best, regardless of age. It is during this nightly sleep that our brains best clean up the junk accumulated from daily processing, our muscles best recuperate and grow, and our minds have time to assimilate and integrate what they have learnt throughout the day.
However, as wonderful as a good night's sleep sounds, it is not always easy to get a good night's sleep. Whether because of anxiety, stress, or simply because you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep, there is nothing more frustrating than tossing and turning for hours without being able to fall asleep.
From my readings in the scientific literature, hormones play a big part in our sleep patterns/disturbances. This is obvious by the frequent night sweats in women in menopause, or the sleep disturbances in the elderly, who produce less melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle.
One thing is sure - sleep is important! Thank goodness that there are a various small practical tips that can help get a good night sleep. Two key actions are daily aerobic activity (more than three hours before bedtime) and daily exposure to sunlight.
When and if you do wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep, try to stay calm and meditate so as to empty your mind. If that doesn't work, getting frustrated and angry is not the right way to go, as it will just wake you up more. Some experts suggest getting up and sitting in the dark for a little while, others suggest doing mindfulness exercises. Try different approaches to see what works for you.
There are many tips of practical steps for a restful night, such as the ones outlined in WebMD:
stick to a regular bedtime. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Your body will get used to the routine.Take a warm bath. When you get out of the tub, the drop in body temperature may help you feel tired. It can also help you relax and slow down, so you’re more ready to go to bed.
Take time to calm down before you turn out the lights. Turn off your electronic devices and TV an hour before bed. You can read a book, listen to music -- whatever helps you unwind.
Make the bedroom a sleep zone. If you're still awake 20 minutes after you hit the sack, get up. Get back in bed only when you feel tired enough. Train yourself to think of the bed as a place for sleeping only.
Avoid afternoon naps. If you sleep during the day, you're more likely to stay awake at night.
Don't drink alcohol close to bedtime. Even small amounts can make it harder to stay asleep. It can make you wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of the booze have worn off.
Drink less fluids at night. Trips to the bathroom break up your sleep.
Wear yourself out. Exercise at regular times each day, but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.
Get some sun. Make an effort to get outside in the sunlight each day. It'll let your body know when it’s time to be awake, and when it’s not. Fifteen to twenty minutes of sun a day without sunscreen is okay, but more don't forget to use protection for longer exposure times.
If you do have sleep issues, try these tips and see what works for you. Be patient and consistent in your actions - do not expect results overnight (no pun intended). In the end, it is what we do most of the time that counts. And so, I wish you all many nights of a great night's sleep!