“A well-spent day brings happy sleep.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

The most common answer to the question, “How are you today?” used to be ”fine” but more often than not, the answer you get now (even before COVID-19) is “tired”! There are many reasons why people feel tired all the time; poor diet, not enough exercise, dehydration, stress, not enough fresh air and sunlight, and of course not enough sleep. This could be from staying up too late and that is easily remedied by having a routine bedtime and sticking to it consistently. However, many people have problems going to sleep once they get in bed and that can be a much harder problem to solve. 

Well into my 50’s, I was a good sleeper - out like a light as soon as my head hit the pillow most nights. I thought that people who said you need less sleep when you get older were kidding. In a way, they were because research demonstrates that our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood but changes in the patterns of our sleep - what specialists call "sleep architecture" - occur as we age and this may contribute to sleep problems. Older people spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep and so even if they get their normal amount of sleep, they may not feel rested when they wake up. When I started having trouble sleeping about 5 years ago, I had to do a lot of experimenting to find the things that I could do to help me get a better night’s sleep. Here are some things I found that can help you prepare yourself for sleep:

  1. Get some sunshine or bright light every day
  2. Get some exercise every day but not close to bedtime
  3. Limit screens (blue light) a couple of hours before your bedtime
  4. Relax and clear your mind in the evening (breathe and meditate)
  5. Keep your bedroom cool
  6. Have a comfortable mattress and pillow
  7. Don’t take naps during the day
  8. Take a relaxing shower or bath before bed
  9. Limit caffeine late in the day
  10. Try to sleep and wake at consistent times

Why would you want to go to these lengths and more to improve your sleep, besides being able to say “I’m fine” instead of “I’m tired” when friends ask? In addition to nutrition and exercise, sleep is one of the pillars of good health. Studies have found that poor sleep is linked to weight gain and pre-diabetes, as well as increased inflammation in the body particularly in the digestive tract with a direct link to inflammatory bowel disease. Poor sleep is also linked to depression and a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes. Being tired may also reduce your social skills and ability to recognize other people’s emotional expressions. In other words, we become two-year-olds who haven’t had their naps!

Getting enough sleep has positive benefits. It contributes to brain function including cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don’t and getting at least 8 hours of sleep can improve your immune function. Being well-rested is also important if you want to maintain positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

So if you are tired more than you think you should be, it’s important to your overall health to try to figure out what is going on and find some habits, routines or strategies that will improve your sleep. Feel free to download and utilize this Habit Tracker form to start your new routine today. You may even want to discuss it with your health care professional to rule out anything serious.

Be on the lookout for more articles on specific self-care practices. We hope that you will find time to implement a few self-care practices into your daily routine during this scary time. We are all in this together. COVID-19 has created a lot of unknowns, but one thing is for sure, we can rely on each other to get through this. Please reach out for support as needed.

 

Tags: rest , sleep , self-care

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