How to Get Better Sleep After 60: Creating Your Very Own Sleep Sanctuary
Let’s take a minute to imagine life 10,000 years ago. It’s sunset, and while you don’t have a watch, you know that it’s time to sleep. Over the course of the last hour, the sun has gently descended behind the mountains, turning the sky from blue to yellow to red to purple. There are dangers in the night, but, you feel safe in your cave, surrounded by your family.
As you close your eyes, you listen to the sounds of the animals around you. The wind blows softly, carrying the scents of a thousand flowers. Some of the smells are well known to you. Others are mysterious. As you snuggle next to your partner, it is absolutely dark around you. There are no distractions. Just the ever more persistent call of sleep.
Fast-forward to 2019. It’s 12:13 in the morning and, while the sun set hours ago, you huddle in your bed, staring at your iPhone, while your partner snores next to you. He’s never been a great sleeper, but, the dusty, sterile air in your house makes his restless nights worse.
Outside your room, the light is on in the hallway, just in case you need to get up in the night. After a couple of glasses of wine, and a glass of water to prevent a headache, you’re pretty sure that you will be getting up at least once during the night.
Satisfied that your friends are still living amazing lives in exotic places, you close Facebook, put your iPhone under your pillow, easily accessible for the morning, and close your eyes. The only sounds you hear are your husband snoring next to you and the dishwasher swirling in the kitchen.
How to Get Better Sleep by Creating a Sleep Sanctuary
It’s amazing how little time we spend organizing our bedrooms, considering the fact that we spend almost a third of our lives in them. Perhaps it’s because we see sleep as an “automatic” process. We go to bed. We close our eyes. Our bodies know what to do next. If only it was that simple!
The truth is that, while our sleep patterns do change as we get older, we have a lot more control over our sleep than we like to admit. One of the most important things that we can do to take control of our sleep is to build an environment that is relaxing, safe and distraction free.
Of course, everyone’s idea of a “perfect environment to sleep in” is going to differ. That said, let’s look at a few categories of things that you can do to build your own sleep sanctuary.
Removing Distractions from Your Sleep Sanctuary
One of the worst things to bring into your sanctuary is your smartphone. This is for a few reasons. First, smartphones are designed to be stimulating. At a time when you should be winding down, Facebook and other apps engage your emotions. Second, and more important, the light that your smartphone gives off can trick your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime. No, I’m not kidding. When our brains were evolving, there was no such thing as “artificial light.” Staring at a white screen at 11:30 at night messes with your internal clock and may significantly hurt your ability to get to sleep.
Other distractions may be more specific to your life. Do you cats love to attack your feet at 2:00 in the morning? Are your curtains too thin to shield your room from the street light right outside your window? Don’t accept these distractions as “normal.” Sleeping is serious business and you deserve to wake up refreshed every day.
Choosing the Right Sounds and Scents for Your Sanctuary
Most of us don’t want to live in a cave, but, we can all benefit from bringing a little nature into our homes. I know people who love falling asleep to the sound of the rain. If this appeals to you, just search on YouTube on your phone for “nature sounds rain” and let the sound of thunder rock you to sleep. Just make sure that you put your phone far enough from the bed that you aren’t tempted to grab it.
Other women in the community use essential oils, like lavender or jasmine to relax their minds and put them in a peaceful place. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers. Experiment with different approaches and don’t accept “good enough.”
Make Sure that the Air in Your Sleep Sanctuary is Clean and Fresh
Poor quality air contributes to snoring and can disrupt your sleep in more direct ways. There are several options for making sure that the air in your sanctuary is as clean as possible. One option is to purchase a home air filter. The only downside here is that electric air-filters can be noisy. As a result, many people choose to go with air-filtering plants instead.
In addition to filtering the air, plants like Aloe, Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), Gerber daisy, Snake plant, Chrysanthemum and Weeping fig can create a relaxing atmosphere in your sanctuary.
Make Your Bed Your Shrine to Sleep
One area that we can definitely outdo our cavemen ancestors is in the mattress department. It always amazes me that people will spend thousands of dollars on a new car or vacation, while sleeping on a mattress that they have owned for decades. If you have trouble getting comfortable at night or wake up in pain, it may be time to consider a new mattress.
I hope that the suggestions in this article help you to build your own sleep sanctuary. Our sleep patterns may change as we get older, but, we still have a lot of control over this aspect of our lives.
What have you done to turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary? What other suggestions would you have for the women in our community who are wondering how to get better sleep? Please join the conversation.