According to an international team of health experts known as the Global Council on Brain Health, more than half of Americans over 50 report waking up too early and not returning to sleep; and over 40% say they aren’t getting enough sleep. And yet, it’s a myth that adults need less sleep as they age.
Research validates that most adults need 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep to be at the top of their game. Skimping on shut-eye can lead to a host of serious disease such as depression and dementia. Without proper rest, we cannot adequately cleanse our brain and body of toxins let alone sustain the energy needed for the day ahead.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., a pioneer in mind body medicine, states that restful sleep is the foundation for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Rest heals and restores our body and mind.
To understand how to get better sleep, it’s helpful to recognize what gets in the way. Few of us would dispute that we live with chronic stress, hurry, hurry, hurry. Life today is fast paced, rapid fire. Turning it off at night is problematic for many. While everyone’s body is tired in the evening, we are more than a body. We also have a mind, and it’s in charge! The stimulated, overworked mind fights our body’s natural need for rest.
In order to gain restorative restful sleep, the busy thinking mind needs to disconnect at night. The good news is that we can help it disconnect and relax by bringing balance into our day.
This is key. According to Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of natural medicine, dis-ease results from imbalance with nature’s rhythms and cycles. To restore balance in our life, let’s explore antidotes for our sleep concerns.
Try these 12 simple practices & routines for restful sleep
• Early to bed and early to rise is timeless wisdom – wake up with the sun.
• Think of sleep as an appointment with yourself. A regular bedtime and waking schedule is important.
• Meditate early in the morning, if possible, before you engage with your day. The day’s challenges are much less stressful when you start with a calm clear mind.
• Eat a light and healthy breakfast.
• Breathe – when feeling stressed, just a few conscious breaths will help restore balance.
• Lunch –Your digestion is strongest around noon. If possible, make this your largest meal. Not eating lunch, or multitasking through lunch is stressful to your body, mind, and emotions.
• Outdoors – Try to get outdoors and in sunlight every day. That’s not so easy in winter months in the Northeast, however spending as little as 20 minutes in the sun and in nature helps keep us in sync with natural rhythms, making it easier to fall asleep at night.
• Meditate after work. When I began doing this years ago, I started looking forward to decompressing after the work day. It changed everything; life with less stress is calming and satisfying. Sleep comes more easily when we are relaxed and content inside.
• Eat dinner before 7:00 pm. Keep it light. If your body is digesting food in the late evening, it will be more difficult to fall asleep.
• Take an evening walk after dinner, wind down with some gentle exercise.
• Put away electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. It will prepare you for sleep. The brightness of their screens is counter-productive to settling down the mind.
• Close the eye’s to sleep by 10:00 or 10:30 pm. If this seems unworkable, move up your bedtime by 30 minutes and notice the difference in how you feel over the next few weeks. Then, bump it up another 30 minutes when you feel comfortable doing so.
Start from where you are
If this list is way too ambitious, not to worry. Start with what is workable. Chunk it down. Commit to implementing one or two items for a month, and see what’s changed. Then adjust, and build from there. Perhaps, you will want to add to your practices. We all want to wake up feeling refreshed, mentally focused, and energized for the day ahead. Implementing these healthy lifestyle routines will help significantly.
The rewards of restful sleep are profound. It will be well worth your while to make some of these adjustments to your lifestyle. If you care to, I’d enjoy hearing your feedback on what’s working. Sweet dreams…
Director, Stress Reduction Resources