Dreaming of a Good Night's Sleep
Updated: May 11, 2022
If you would like to improve your quality of sleep, check out our guest post on sleep from The Age Well Coach, Amanda Price. In this first part of a two part series, Amanda offers us her top tips on how to get a good night’s rest.
If you are a carer for someone who has dementia, then you know all too well how stress and concerns about the future can affect your sleep. Also, those living with dementia are likely to suffer from irregular sleeping patterns and night-waking. Lack of sleep affects so many parts of our lives: our concentration, immune system, weight, mood, mental health, emotions and our ability to interact with others.
I have broken this blog post down into 2 separate posts. Part 2 will follow shortly. Read through the tips I give you here and decide what changes you can make now. Don’t try to change everything. Just try one or two new things and see how it goes. It can be trial and error working out what works for you or the person you care for.
Stick to a sleep routine. Our bodies like routine. Try to go to bed and get up in the morning at the same time every day. We all have an internal body clock known as a circadian rhythm and it responds to daylight. Our internal body clock is the reason we suffer from jet lag because it takes a few days generally for our circadian rhythm to adjust.
Get outside in the morning and dim the lights in the evening. Our circadian rhythms respond to daylight. We are designed to rise at dawn and go to sleep when it gets dark. A hormone called melatonin is released as it gets dark, helping us to feel sleepy. Artificial light in the evening interferes with this system.
Lose the technology. As well as dimming the lights, put away your technology at least an hour before you go to bed ideally 2-3 hours. Try instead to spend the hour before you go to bed reading, having a hot bath, doing some gentle stretching, or listening to some calming music.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary snacks in the evenings. Matthew Walker who wrote the book “Why We Sleep” says that even if we don’t think we are impacted by the caffeine we consume after noon, it will undoubtedly affect the quality of sleep. Also, sugary foods raise your blood sugar levels so if you eat them before you go to bed, it is likely that you wake up in the small hours as your blood sugar levels dip. Without a doubt alcohol impacts our sleep length and quality. For a start alcohol contains sugar which we know impacts our sleep. As Matthew Walker says, alcohol fragments our sleep, littering our night with brief awakenings. Alcohol also blocks the brain’s ability to generate REM sleep. This is when we dream but more importantly it is when memories from the day before are stored. If you can, I suggest you ditch the alcohol or at least cut back as much as you can.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Our core body temperature decreases at night and this, together with the fading light, triggers the release of melatonin. Matthew Walker says that the ideal room temperature for sleep is 18.3 degrees centigrade, assuming standard bedding.
Manage stress. The stress sleep connection can be a bit of a vicious cycle. We are stressed so we sleep badly; we sleep badly which makes us more stressed! I recommend that as part of your bed routine you keep a journal in which you can write down any specific worries and concerns you have. This may be your To-Do list for the next day or it may be family related or related to world events out of your control. Writing it down acts like a brain dump and can help you relax before sleep.
Part 2 of my sleep blog will address five more ways you can support your way to consistent good sleep. Many of the tips I am suggesting are based on habit change and habit change can be hard without the support, encouragement and accountability of someone alongside you. This
is the role of a Health Coach. If you would like to find out more about how health coaching might be able to help you, please take a look at my website or drop me a line on email@example.com