In Part Three of this anti-aging series we looked at exercise and its powerful role in combating inflammation, which as you now know, leads to many of the chronic diseases associated with getting older.
In this article, we will be exploring how sleep affects aging and specifically how getting the right amount of sleep can literally turn back the clock. When you sleep, your body not only rests, but also recovers and repairs itself. But you have to get enough sleep. Most sleep specialists recommend seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night.
If you are currently sleeping six hours or less per night, you’ll be delighted to hear that adding these extra hours of sleep will directly affect your physical appearance. After just a few weeks, your skin will improve and you’ll notice less fine skin lines, as new collagen is manufactured while you sleep which will prevent sagging. Plus, that extra sleep will improve circulation to your skin, leading to both a brighter complexion and brighter eyes.
Adequate sleep also plays a vital role in learning new information and memory, both areas that many people are concerned with as they age. Scientists have found it’s both the quantity and the quality of sleep that affects learning and memory. Sleep also plays a vital role in your body’s immune functioning as well as your metabolism. People who continuously do not get enough sleep, or whose sleep is constantly interrupted, tend to get sick easily and also may put on unwanted pounds that are difficult to get off.
Knowing the benefits of good quality sleep, getting more of it would seem a simple thing to implement. For many, busy lives, parental or elder care responsibilities, financial worries or other problems interfere with both the quantity and quality of sleep they are getting. What can you do to get the sleep you need? Here are five easy suggestions that at first glance may seem simple but, if you put them into practice, you’ll be surprised at how much your sleep improves!
One: Adhere to a Relaxing Pre-Sleep Routine
An hour or so before you go to bed, start to wind down with some relaxing activities such as light reading, taking a bath or practicing relaxation exercises. Avoid overly stimulating mental or physical activities and especially avoid discussing emotional issues, as this is associated with the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can keep you awake.
Also avoid exposure to bright light, as this can keep you awake later. Dim the lights in your house. You may also want to employ an app that works as a filter for your computer or smartphone and which blocks out stimulating blue light. If you have an iPhone, look under your Settings and enable the Night Shift function as evening approaches.
Two: Don’t Go to Bed Until You Are Truly Tired.
If you go to bed but do not fall asleep after 20 minutes, then get up and read or listen to music until you feel sleepy. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, found in tea, colas, chocolate as well as some pain relievers for six hours prior to sleep. Avoid eating a heavy meal just before bed and don’t drink so much water that you have to get up to go to the bathroom during the night.
Three: Transform Your Bedroom into a Sleep Chamber
A quiet, cool, dark environment is best for sleep. Use blackout shades or an eye mask to block out light and keep the temperature in your bedroom on the cool side. Use earplugs or heavy curtains to block out outside noise if necessary.
Four: Pay Attention to Your Internal Clock
Go to bed and arise at the same time each day. This is important. It’s this consistency that will set your body’s internal clock. Try to stick to this schedule, even on weekends and when you have not slept well the night before. Get out into the natural sunlight as soon as you can each morning, even if it’s just for five minutes, and take a sun break for a few minutes during the day. Natural sunlight is a powerful biological agent that will help to regulate your body’s internal clock and can help you consistently get a better night’s sleep.
Five: Know When to Get Help
If none of these things are helping and you are significantly sleep deprived or suffer from insomnia, you may benefit from a consultation with a sleep specialist. She may recommend an overnight sleep study to rule out such conditions as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, both chronic conditions which can lead to other health problems.
Next time, we’ll wrap up this series on anti-aging with a look at how to improve your emotional reserves. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you are doing implementing these better sleep suggestions in the comments below!