As I was tossing and turning the other night, I started thinking about how sleep has become the Holy Grail for a lot of people our age.
Whether it’s the result of menopause, stressing about retirement, anxiety over your kid’s latest relationship, or the fettucine alfredo you knew you shouldn’t have eaten, getting your zzz’s can be a challenge.
So I started reading (yep, at 3 a.m.) about tips for a better night’s rest. Here’s what I learned:
- Don’t exercise right before bedtime (unless it’s sex-ercise, which will knock you out faster than Muhammad Ali). Working out raises your body temperature and being cool, not hot, helps you sleep more soundly. (Exercising earlier in the day on a regular basis helps tire you out by bedtime.)
- Don’t watch TV, use your computer or check e-mail right before bed. Blue light from these screens signals your brain to shut off melatonin production – that’s the sleep hormone – and messes with your circadian rhythms, your normal sleep/wake body clock.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark – add shades or curtains or wear a comfy sleep mask to shut out the light.
- Use a humidifier to avoid getting congested.
- Insomniacs secrete more cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone our bodies release when we’re stressed. One way to shut down obsessive thoughts? Make your to-do list or write down stuff that’s bothering you an hour or so before bedtime. Rub your neck, arms and shoulders when you get into bed and take some deep, calming breaths to help relax.
Another trick that seems to work is to eat a little peanut butter on whole wheat toast or crackers an hour before bed. Apparently the combination of complex carbs and protein provides enough fuel to keep you from waking up hungry, but isn’t hard to digest. Plus, it boosts levels of feel-good serotonin.
Sweet dreams, my friends!