The Importance of Sleep During Life’s Transitions

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Studies have proven that during our later years, limiting stress and maximizing the appropriate amount of sleep is key to our health. Getting the proper amount of sleep won’t just help us to live longer, but it will impact the quality of the years ahead too.

While the amount of sleep we need does change as we age, research by the National Institutes of Health shows just one percent of adults need less than six hours a night, and healthy sleep includes not just the hours of sleep but the quality.  We need rapid eye movement (REM)—the deep sleep in which dreaming happens—and non-REM for a complete cycle, which lasts an average of 90 to 110 minutes.

Not only do we feel better the day after a good night’s sleep, we age better as well. According to the CDC, lack of sleep is linked to several chronic conditions, including:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Obesity
  • Depression

Furthermore, a study by the journal Nature Communications found that lack of sleep contributes to a more than 30 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia later in life.

The American Heart Association studies show that if you have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or stroke, insufficient sleep puts you at an even higher risk for cancer or early death.

So, better sleep surely helps us live longer, purposeful lives. But how do we get there? Better Sleep, Better You, Dr. Frank Lipman notes sleep is our primary health rhythm: “All roads lead to and from sleep.”  The book offers a 21-day sleep “reset,” helping reset your body’s natural clock through a series of small shifts in your daily habits.

Here are 8 easy habits to incorporate for 8 good hours of sleep:

  1. Get your Daily Dose of Vitamin D: A few minutes of direct exposure to bright, natural light during the day, every day, regulates your body’s rhythms.
  2. Eat Light: A lighter meal for supper ensures your body isn’t working overtime to digest food.  If you need an evening snack, cherries, grapes, strawberries, nuts, and oats all have high melatonin content.
  3. Create Evening Rituals: Begin winding down your day with something like an evening meditation, a non-caffeinated cup of tea such as chamomile or lavender, or anything that helps you unwind from the day.  Avoid alcohol, however, which can reduce REM sleep and cause sleep disruptions as it processes in the liver.
  4. Set Your Internal Clock: Create a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, as much as possible.
  5. Turn It Off: Shut off your electronic devices (phones, computer, tablet) at least two hours before going to bed.  If you like to read before sleeping, try a physical book or magazine.
  6. Exercise Early: Do any strenuous workouts or activities earlier in the day.  Instead of revving up your system, wind your physical activity down as the day progresses.
  7. Set the Mood: Create a great sleep environment by keeping your bedroom as dark as possible, and setting the thermostat between 60 to 71 degrees Fahrenheit if possible.
  8. Take a Nap: If you get less sleep than normal on a given night, don’t go to bed earlier the next night.  Take a nap the next day instead of adjusting your bedtime.

These eight tips will be especially helpful when facing a life transition, when the stress of lengthy to-do lists full of packing and cleaning tasks, while communicating with dependent loved ones, can pile up on your plate. This can lead to restless nights of tossing and turning, as your mind runs wild with anxiety as you prepare to downsize or move.

During this time, be sure to ask the experts from Caring Transitions for help before tackling a life transition alone. You’ll be able to rest and relax while they get you organized with an individualized plan and a team of employees who handle the physical labor.

Not only will you sleep easier without having to handle all the labor involved with a move, but you can feel at ease knowing that you or your loved one will be set up for success in their next chapter, right from day one.

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