As we get older our sleep patterns change and we might find that over the age 50 we begin to sleep less deeply and wake up earlier in the morning.
However, insomnia is not caused by aging and if you find that you can’t get to sleep or you wake up after only a few hours of sleep, you’re not alone but you need to address this problem.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep, especially as we get older is important for your body to repair itself, to keep you healthy by revitalising your immune system and to help your memory and concentration. If you are happy and healthy then you are more likely to sleep well.
Although it best to have been seven and eight hours of sleep every night, it is the quality of that sleep which is more important.
Lack of sleep can make you grumpy, sleepy and unable to concentrate properly. You memory will be effected and you might also get anxious.
Many people suffer from insomnia because they have stress or worry that they can’t let go of when they go to bed. Pain can keep you awake or lack of exercise.
What the Doctors say
Many sleep experts believe that not sleeping eventually becomes something that your body learns not to do and the harder you try, the more you fail. A recent article in the Guardian newspaper highlighted the sleep problems of Journalist, Bin Adewunmi. She went to see Dr Guy Meadows at The Sleep School in London.
Dr Meadows is a believer in the body having learned not to sleep and he runs courses and gives advice to people suffering from insomnia to change the body’s response to sleeping.
He says, like many sleep experts, that using telephones, tablets and computers late at night keeps us awake. This is because electronic devices emit blue light.
What Has This Got to Do With Sleep?
Well, in order to feel sleepy our brain secretes the hormone Melatonin and that’s what helps us go to sleep. However if we watch TV in bed, use a tablet or a telephone, the blue light which you can’t see, but which is being emitted, reduces the secretion of Melatonin. This means that we don’t get enough of the hormone that makes us feel sleepy and we stay awake.
Dr Guy Meadows advised Bin Adewunmi not to use any electronic devices half an hour before bedtime and to go to bed at a reasonable time. His courses teach insomniacs how to be mindful of their condition and he gives them coping strategies to help with the anxiety that comes from not sleeping well.
His advice is to ‘let go’ and accept the situation. He advises his patients not to stress about the fact that you can’t sleep, but don’t do anything. Stay in bed, relax, and eventually your body will re-learn how to sleep once again.
Try using distraction techniques to stop you worrying and thinking too much when you go to bed. Some sleep experts recommend listening to your breathing, counting backwards, or visualising that you are relaxing on a warm beach.
You can browse Doctor Guy Mitchell’s Sleep School website and if you google ‘insomnia or ‘sleep problems’ there is a lot of information available and plenty of tips and hints about distraction techniques and what to do to get a good night’s sleep.