Sleeping and being well rested is important for anyone at any age. As we age, though, getting less sleep will have a greater impact on your adrenal glands. The body recharges and regenerates at night so the quality of your sleep is as important as the duration. Optimal sleep time is between 7-8 hours. If you are someone who thinks you do fine with 6 hours, I invite you remove all caffeine from your diet and then test out how you do over 2 weeks with just 6 hours of sleep.
If your days are full of activity and possibly stress, it is vital to create a bed time ritual to help slow down your brain, relax your muscles and prepare to fall into a deep, restful sleep. Here are a few suggestions for creating your ritual as well as some tips of things to avoid that impact the quality of your sleep.
What to add:
Yoga, meditation, or light and easy isometric stretches– all exercise gets the blood flowing and doing something light and relaxing can dissipate any tension you may be holding onto from the day.
Journaling– keeping a journal by your bed helps you to release any last thoughts you are having that your mind may want to remember. If you write them down, the body and mind can trust that it’s written down so it can allow you to fall into a deeper sleep because it no longer has the responsibility of remembering something.
Appreciate/gratitude journal– we often go to sleep and review what didn’t go well today, what we have to do tomorrow and often do not take the time to celebrate what did go well. Writing down at least 3 things every night, simple things, can redirect your body into a more pleasant mood, help you feel complete and allow you to rest more easily.
Essential oils– lavender oil is one of the most powerful sleep aids I have experienced. When the weather is dry, I add it to my humidifier. Earlier this year, I add so much that it was hard to keep my eyes open! You can also rub it on your chest, feet, back of neck and take a large inhalation absorb the oil’s relaxing scent.
Hypnosis, nature sounds, meditative music– I mostly use hypnosis cd’s but last year in NYC when I was readjusting to being back in the city, I used my meditation music to overpower the street noise and it worked just fine.
What to avoid:
No TV right before bed: It is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep. The TV can disrupt the pineal gland’s function of producing of melatonin and serotonin.
Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars: This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.
Avoid caffeine and excess alcohol: A recent study showed that caffeine is not metabolized efficiently in all people and therefore they can feel the effects long after consuming it. So an afternoon cup of coffee (or even tea) will keep some people from falling asleep. Medications can also contain caffeine as well. Alcohol will also keep you from falling into the deeper stages of REM sleep, where the body does most of its healing.
Going to bed late: Get to bed as early as possible. Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11PM and 1AM. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into the liver which then secondarily back up into your entire system and cause further disruption of your health. Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well.