What to try when you can’t sleep
Why is it that things that seem emotionally manageable during the day can seem disturbing in the middle of night? Tossing and turning is stressful; worrying that the emotional discomfort will continue into the next day makes it even more difficult to relax.
If you’re finding it harder to sleep than it once was, you’re not alone. “Along with the physical changes that occur as we get older, changes to our sleep patterns are a part of the normal aging process. As people age they tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep than when they were younger,” reports the National Sleep Foundation. Even if it’s harder to maintain sleep as we age, this doesn’t mean we need less, the Foundation notes that seniors need just as much rest as any adult.
So how do you deal with this upheaval in your life? What can you try if you’re unable to sleep?
Side effects from medications, snoring, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome (RLS), Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), depression, anxiety and dementia can all disrupt nighttime sleep, according to the Foundation. If you’re experiencing sleep issues, discuss this with your doctor.
You deserve a good night of rest. Sleeping well is the basis of good health. If you find yourself unable to get a full night of sound rest, this is not a personal failure on your part. Your doctor, undoubtedly, hears this from plenty of patients. Getting advice about your specific medical situation can help.
A comfortable approach to getting your rest
Try to think of your sleepless self like a child you’re caring for. What might you do to help sooth that child at night? What would you have that child avoid to help him or her wind down before bed and sleep well through the night? Aim to treat yourself with the same careful, sensitive approach.
Create an evening routine with that approach in mind. Take a bath. Read a good, relaxing book. Pray or meditate. Be mindful of what you eat and drink in the hours before you go to bed. The Foundation recommends avoiding alcohol late in the evening as it may cause nighttime waking. Likewise, it advises refraining from caffeine and any stimulants for three-to four hours before bedtime. It’s also important to adhere to roughly the same bedtime each night to build a good routine around sleep.
While naps can feel wonderful, they can disrupt that routine and hinder sleep from the upcoming evening. The Foundation advises: “remember that sleep in the daytime affects sleep at night. You may find that a short (~30 minute) nap in the mid to late afternoon may give you energy in the second half of your day, but realize that such a nap can decrease your nighttime sleep need so that it may take you longer to fall asleep or you may sleep for a shorter time.”
This is a difficult time in our country. The spread of the COVID-19 virus is unsettling and worrisome. Sometimes, those fears can be especially difficult to manage at night. You may find yourself experiencing a sense of sadness, anxiety and depression that makes it hard to relax, unwind and sleep through the night. Many Americans are experiencing anxiety, fear and depression related to the current situation. Your Visiting Angels Caregiver can help when it comes to offering companion care and support, both important during difficult times.
If you feel, however, that your worry and sadness is becoming increasingly difficult to manage, call your doctor. Many therapists are working with patients using Telehealth. This enables clients to have an appointment without having to leave the home. It’s a useful resource for a difficult time.
Make a plan for how to relax if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night. The Sleep Foundation recommends: “If you can't fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet relaxing activity such as reading or listening to music. When you feel sleepy, get back in bed and try again. If not successful in 20 minutes, repeat.”
You’re seeking a new sleep routine, and you will get there. It can take some time to work it out but keep taking good care of yourself during the day and working towards your goals at night.