So how can women over 55 get the healing slow wave activity and REM sleep they need to take over the world?—I mean optimally function in the world?
Separating the cow patties from the gems on the internet, the solid gold research points to a number of practices we can adopt to get the REM age-defying sleep after menopause we need. O.K., I added “youthening” to the list, because sleep slows the signs of aging, as I discussed in my September 2, 2019 post, and clears out the gunk from our aging brain, while it reverses telomeres aging—all of which keep us younger than our drivers’ licenses claim we are. Let’s start with the a few easy choices we can make to improve our sleep, and then add a few others that require a little more time to implement.
Dr. Breus clinical psychologist and author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep says, “If you do only one thing to improve your sleep, this is it: Set a sleep schedule—and stick with it.” Going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning—even on weekends, presently shows incredible promise as a magic formula for getting good sleep. A consistent sleep routine keeps our biological clocks finely calibrated so we rest better, plus exposure to a regular pattern of light and dark helps, too. Opening the blinds or going outside right after awakening can help us stay in sync and keep our clocks humming.
Here are some additional things you might try:
1. Keep a sleep diary
Dr. Lisa Shives of the National Sleep Foundations suggests: “To help you understand how your habits affect your rest, track your sleep every day for at least 2 weeks. Write down not only what’s obviously sleep related—what time you go to bed, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up during the night, how you feel in the morning—but also factors like what you ate close to bedtime and what exercise you got. Comparing your daily activities with your nightly sleep patterns can show you where you need to make changes.”
2. Review your medications
Beta-blockers (prescribed for high blood pressure) may cause insomnia; so can SSRIs (a class of antidepressants that includes Prozac and Zoloft); these are only the tip of the mountain of drugs that cause us to lose sleep. Write down every drug and supplement you take (as they could interact), and have your supplements expert evaluate how they may be affecting your sleep.
3. Cut caffeine after 2 pm
That means coffee, tea, and cola—all caffeine, even chocolate, if you’re sensitive.
4. Write down your woes
“The number one sleep complaint I hear? ‘I can’t turn off my mind,’ ” says Dr. Breus. To quiet our anxious mind, every night jot down your top concerns—then write down the steps you can take to solve the problem. Once concerns are converted into some kind of action plan, you’ll “put your mind at rest,” as the cliché goes.
5. Take time to wind down
“Sleep is not an on-off switch,” says Dr. Breus. “It’s more like slowly easing your foot off the gas.” Give your body time to transition from your active day.
Dr. Shives suggests:
- First 20 minutes: Prep for tomorrow (pack your bag, set out your clothes).
- Next 20: Take care of personal hygiene–take a warm bath (my personal go-to for transitioning), brush your teeth, moisturize your face, and brush your hair to relax your scalp, brush slowly and turn upside down, too; this calms your mind, as well.
- Last 20: Relax in bed, reading with a small, low-wattage book light or practicing deep breathing.
6. Don’t drink alcohol at least 2 hours before bed
A few hours after drinking, alcohol levels in your blood start to drop, which signal your body to wake up. It takes an average person about an hour to metabolize one drink, so if you have two glasses of wine with dinner, finish your last sip at least 2 hours before bed.
7. Snack on cheese and apple slices
The ideal nighttime treat combines carbohydrates and either calcium (unless dairy sensitive) or a protein that contains the amino acid tryptophan—studies show that both of these combos boost serotonin. Finish up your snack about an hour before bed so that the amino acids have time to reach your brain.
In my next post I will add a few more suggestions to the list to help you get your ZZZ’s.
Until next time…Be Vibrant!