Day by day
Secret to sleep lies in daytime activity, habits
By LIZ THOMPSON
August 19, 2015
One of the first things we might say or hear after “Good morning,” is “How did you sleep?” We innately know sleep is important.
One-third of our lives are spent sleeping. Sleep is responsible for “how full, happy and rewarding our waking hours can be. Good sleep habits help our bodies’ process and save memories, repair muscle, boost our immune system, control appetite and recharge,” according to WebMD.
Sleep can be elusive. In my quest to eliminate chronic insomnia, I have researched, talked with my doctors and with others, and tried various suggestions to sleep regularly. I have found an adequate path to sleep, most nights.
During my search, I learned that many people are afflicted with insomnia — either the inability to fall sleep initially, or waking in the night and not being able to return to blissful slumber. An informative National Geographic program, now available online, is Sleepless in America (channel.nationalgeographic.com).
What I gleaned from that show, my doctors and online at WebMD, the National Institutes of Health and the Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute helped me understand my issues.
Getting a good night’s sleep can depend on the conditions in our bedroom, our bedtime routine and what we do during the day.
Many of us learned good sleep habits as children. Our parents had a regular schedule for our bedtime. As young children, we napped at least once a day. A good suggestion for adults, when possible.
Physical activity, what we called play, was natural for us as children, and still should be. We might have had a warm bath before snuggling into our pajamas. A bedtime story and evening prayers were typical fare as well. Our rooms were darkened, with the door sometimes slightly ajar.
In summer, most of us older than 50 remember the windows were open and the fans lulled us to sleep. Even in winter, the windows were left open a crack, letting the cool, fresh air flow into our rooms.
Sleep experts agree the best way to set the stage for a better night’s sleep is: being physically tired; a regular schedule for going to sleep in a quiet, dark room with cool temperatures; and a shower or bath, reading or listening to quiet music prior to lights out.
Today, electronics give our world a surreal glow. Professionals warn us not to watch TV or read our smartphones, iPads, computers and other electronics, at least one hour before bedtime. Our brains will continue to think it is daytime and time to be awake. It is recommended to keep electronics out of the bedroom, especially if they continue to glow or make noise.
According to the NIH, “Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that roughly follow a 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in our environment.”
These rhythms are important in determining human sleep patterns.
“The body’s master clock, or SCN, controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. Since it is located just above the optic nerves, which relay information from the eyes to the brain, the SCN receives information about incoming light. When there is less light — like at night — the SCN tells the brain to make more melatonin so you get drowsy.”
Taking in light during the daylight hours — especially sunlight — can strengthen circadian rhythms and help to avoid melatonin deficiency. Melatonin levels rise in the body after dark and drop during daylight hours. Artificial light in the evening hours can delay melatonin release and disrupt sleep-wake cycles.
Common “snooze foods” include: banana with almonds, apple with low-fat cheese, carrots with hummus, or whole wheat toast with peanut butter.
It is a fallacy that as we age we need less sleep.
The Upper Arlington Commission on Aging had many requests for more information about this topic and is hosting a free Senior Sleep Symposium Sept. 23 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, 2300 Lytham Road. Registration is required by calling 614-583-5326614-583-5326.
Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m. The program runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch is included.
Drs. Samit Malhotra and Asim Roy from Ohio Sleep Medicine will present on topics: why can’t I sleep; a review of common sleep disorders affecting seniors; why is adequate sleep important; and effective treatment for sleep disorders.
A line from a Frank Sinatra song featured in Sleepless in Seattle fits: “In the wee small hours of the morning, while the whole wide world is fast asleep, we lie awake…”
It helps to know we’re not alone and support is available.