Ageing and Sleep

Apparently we need less sleep when we are older, but then the experts say there aren’t really any golden rules about it: people vary so much on this one. It’s quality more than quantity that determines how you feel when you get up – a long restless night is worse than a short but deep and refreshing sleep. Worrying about sleeplessness is the really awful thing – and I have experience of that. In the early hours of the morning I have been known to give up on the struggle and the day that has followed hasn’t been nearly as bad as I feared, though a little unreal. The next night is wonderful! But those hours when all the hidden thoughts that are normally buried float before you uncontrollably and the responsibilities of the next day haunt your partial consciousness is – if I believed in it – a presage of hell.

Some good ideas on preparation for a good night’s sleep in a book by Hilary Boys (‘Boosting your Energy’) are worth taking note of:

  • The bed should be firm and comfortable and according to the Chinese fung shui philosophy should face north
  • Pillows should not be too fat or hard and the covers keep you warm but not sweaty
  • If you wear nightclothes they should be neither restrictive nor voluminous
  • The bedroom should be well aired, dark and as quiet as possible
  • Reduce electronics in the bedroom to as little as possible
  • Have a glass of water near at hand

A little oil of lavender on your pillow before you settle down can be helpful, or a warm ( not hot ) bath before bed, a drink of valerian tea or one of the relaxing pills that you can buy from most herbal stores can also help to prepare you for a good night’s rest.

Exercise during the day and not going to bed too early so that you are really tired can help as well. I haven’t found this aid for a proper night’s sleep anywhere, but keeping a diary could be useful.

Getting down some of the events of the day could reduce some of the unreflective stress that otherwise you might take to bed with you.