Previously we looked at the harm that can come to older bodies and minds when sleep is diminished or disrupted. This entry offers some hopeful ideas that can help you alter perhaps-unhelpful sleep habits.
Perhaps the most important idea: Start now to establish healthy sleep patterns. Even in your later years, you can change how you think of sleep, and how you can develop sleep-practices that contribute to your well-being.
Engage loved ones around you in this matter. Their support—including their own experiences—will be important factors in changing your sleep habits.
Explore resources that detail generally accepted do’s and don’ts for any age. (Talk to your physician or see http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips as an example.) Consider how each suggestion might fit into your present setting or lifestyle. Select one or two techniques to begin with, gradually adding other changes over time.
If sorrows about the present or anxieties about the future bedevil your before-sleep thoughts, think about beginning a habit of meditation or prayer well before your regular bedtime. Quieting your brain before sleep seems to be a consistent suggestion from sleep researchers.
You might revisit the side effects of any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you are taking. With your doctor’s advice, assess how you might change your use of medications whose side effects might accumulate to diminish or disturb your sleep patterns.
Pay attention to the growing body of research regarding new methods that might restore your quality of sleep, such as brain-stimulation, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia or targeted exercise.
Above all, be persistent in seeking the benefits of a full night’s sleep. Tune your spirit to expect this blessing as part of a full life in your later years.
And enjoy each moment of life-restoring rest that you experience!
(The ideas in these sleep-focused blog entries arise from Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Professor Matthew Walker, Director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at UC Berkeley, and the reporting of Barbara Sadick, “Having trouble sleeping? It is not just because of aging.” in the November 26, 2017 issue of The Washington Post.)