Restoration Health

5 Sleep Hacks for the Over 40 Crowd

A good night’s sleep is worth almost any amount of money, especially if it’s been weeks, months or even years since you’ve slept well. Over half of all Americans struggle with this issue despite trying almost anything to get some solid shuteye. Over-the-counter supplements that promise a good night’s sleep can be found almost everywhere which is clear evidence that this issue affects a significant number of us.

Research has shown that consistent good quality sleep allows our body to heal and recover from the day’s events, protecting against a large number of serious health issues that can occur further down the road. But if you’re in the over 40 crowd, have a stressful lifestyle and a less-than-optimal diet, chances are good that at some point, a lack of sleep will leave you walking around like a zombie, longing for a place to catch a quick nap.

But if you are a female who’s over 40, there’s another layer of sleep complication that definitely complicates the problem. As you move closer to menopause, hormone levels naturally shift which often results in night sweats, unfounded worry and relentless brain chatter during the middle of the night. This trifecta can undermine the stamina and resolve of an otherwise active and mentally acute woman.

A good night’s sleep is everything!

So what can be done about this sleep-deprivation situation? Thankfully, there are several simple strategies that can help you get a good night’s rest and recalibrate your internal circadian rhythm back to normal.

1. Clean up your diet.

What we eat affects our sleep patterns. Diets high in sugar, carbs and alcohol, (especially in the evenings) can result in relentless tossing and turning, keeping you from finally settling into a nice, deep sleep. Blood sugar fluctuations send a signal to the brain that something’s not quite right which then triggers a domino-like cascade of hormones and other chemical messengers that work hard to get your brain the glucose it needs. It’s during this process that your sleep gets interrupted.

So try to avoid consuming alcohol within two hours of bedtime (I know, not what you really wanted to hear) and make sure you’ve had something for dinner besides just chips and salsa. A protein, healthy fat and fruit or veggie makes for a beautifully balanced meal that can help you drift off to sleep in no time.

2. Try some natural sleep aids

This doesn’t include melatonin or NyQuil. Instead, consider herbs such as valerian, California poppy, kava and skullcap. These can quiet an overactive mind, relax tense muscles, ease the worry from the day and quite an overexcited nervous system. Quality is important here as not all herbal products are alike. We recommend using pharmaceutical-grade herbs sourced from Australia. Calming minerals such as calcium, magnesium and alfalfa and can also be very effective for helping you drift off to sleep easily and reduce the number of times you wake up.

3. Boost your sleep hormone

There’s a tiny little gland nestled deep within your brain called the pineal gland. When it’s daylight (or any kind of light is present), the pineal gland becomes quiet and waits for the sign that daylight is changing to dusk and then into full darkness. That’s when it releases its magical hormone known as melatonin. But if you are watching TV, reading mindlessly on FB or reading on your iPad, your pineal gland never gets the signal that it’s dark outside.

To keep your pineal happy and producing plenty of melatonin to help you sleep, turn off all electronics at 9pm and create your own version of ‘dusk’ inside your home. This will send the correct signal for your hormone to start making you feel drowsy and ready to nod off for a restful night’s sleep.

4. Enjoy life

Research has shown that people who are generally happy have higher amounts of another hormone known as oxytocin. Famous for being the “bonding” hormone, it is released when we engage in activities that foster relationships. Things like spending time with friends, belly laughing, playing with our pets, and spending time with our children foster a better night’s sleep. So put a smile on your face, give someone a hug and get that oxytocin flowing!

5. Create a cozy sleep space

Your bedroom should be your own sacred space, free from clutter, exercise equipment, laundry that needs to be folded or even a TV (yep, not conducive for a good night’s sleep). Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, preferably a bit on the cooler side. Use blackout shades to block any drifting light from streetlamps or other ambient light. Disconnect, or better yet, leave all your personal electronics in another room and be sure to put everything in airplane mode so nothing disrupts your precious sleep.

Once you find your secret sauce for satisfying sleep, you’ll be snoring away in no time. A good night’s sleep helps your body heal, keeps your hormones on point and allows your brain plenty of time to defrag and reset. Making the investment in finding the right combination to help you sleep will pay off huge dividends down the road.

Ronda Nelson

Ronda L. Nelson, PhD, MH is a holistic nutritionist and master herbalist who helps support and restore optimal health for those who are looking for alternative options with regard to their overall health and well-being.

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