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A healthy night-time routine for older people

20th January 2021

Did you know that the start of a productive day starts the night before? Experts say that if you have a healthy night-time routine then you will be able to switch off from work or the stresses of life and recharge.

With the stresses from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic causing some people to have sleepless nights, now more than ever it is considered that getting your evening routine right is very important.

Dr. M.K. Rasmussen, who is the director for the Behavioural Sleep Medicine Program for The Centre for Sleep and Human Performance, says it is vital that you have some form of routine in the evening.

“Routine is the foundation of health. Rise in the morning and retire to bed at night at the same time daily. This strengthens and anchors your circadian sleep process and helps reset your biological clock to establish a healthy sleep pattern. Set your alarm for the same rise time daily, no matter how much you slept the previous night. On weekends, stay within 1 hour of your wake time. Arrange mealtimes and physical activity at consistent times.”

Top tips for a healthy night-time routine

Below are some tips that you can follow when it comes to planning a night-time routine.

•Unplug from technology.

•Try to go to bed at the same time every night

•Try reading before bed to wind down

•Enjoy a bath before bedtime

•Write down things that are on your mind

•Ensure your bedroom is dark and cosy

•Only go to bed when sleepy

•Decrease night-time blue light exposure

Unplug from technology

Although it is tempting to use your computer, tablet or phone before bed, there have been studies which have revealed that using these type of devices can affect your sleep. According to the research, a natural hormone called melatonin is released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for sleep, but the production of the hormone can be affected by using a mobile, tablet or computer in the evening.

Kathy Cakebread, the editor at Glitz and Glamour Makeup believes you should take electronics out of your bedroom.

“Try to get rid of any stimulating devices from your bedroom (TV, tablets, mobile phones etc) as they can often provide stimulus which engages your brain and stops you being able to shut down. Your bedroom should be used for sleep only, this is incredibly important if you struggle with getting to sleep in the first place.”

Dr. M.K. Rasmussen agrees that you need to try and unwind in the evening by avoiding technology: “Wind down and unplug from technology in dim light approximately two hours before bedtime with calm activities OUTSIDE the bedroom. This primes the body for sleep, i.e., read, bath, stretch, breathing techniques. You may still watch light TV outside the bedroom as this is a more passive activity. It is also becoming increasingly popular to listen to audiobooks.”

Try to go to bed at the same time every night

Keeping to regular sleeping hours is said to help programme your brain and internal body clock so you get used to a set routine.

Adults generally need from six to nine hours of sleep every night and by working out a time that you need to wake up by will help you set a regular bedtime schedule.

While enjoying a lie-in might seem like a good idea to catch up on sleep, especially after a bad night, doing so regularly can actually disrupt your sleep routine.

Jenni Grainger, the writer behind the Chilling with Lucas blog, says her gran has a night-time routine that sees her go to bed at the same time every night.

“My Grandma is 90 years old and to help her sleep easily at night, she gets ready for bed in her pyjamas and dressing gown an hour before she plans on going to bed. She makes a warm milky drink and will read her book in the lounge before going to bed. This way she only associates her bed with sleeping and not reading. She also makes sure she goes to bed at the same time each night and gets up at the same time each morning. Routine helps her body to regulate when it should be sleeping and when it shouldn’t.”

Try reading before bed to wind down

Reading before bed is a great way to wind down as it has been proven to significantly relax you. A study published on the Telegraph website found that ‘reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent’ ahead of listening to music and taking a walk.

Laura Kate Lucas runs a lifestyle blog and she finds reading to be a great way of relaxing before going to sleep. She said: “My top two tips would be to find a way to wind down that works for you - I really enjoy taking 30mins-1hour to read before I sleep. This also leads onto my second point quite well which is to switch off any technology. I always find I feel too alert and engaged to relax if I use technology just before bed, so reading is a great option to wind down and also helps me to hit my goal of reading more.”

Lisa Artis, the Deputy CEO at the Sleep Charity, is also a big believer in reading before bed: “I’m a big advocate of reading before bed. It can help reduce stress and anxiety levels (to coin the phrase ‘get lost in a good book’) and focus the brain away from any niggling worries. Also, if you’re reading, you’re less likely to be using screens. If reading isn’t your thing, consider an audiobook instead.”

There are plenty of good books to read before bed and below are some suggestions you can delve into in the new year:

•Black Buck

•The Prophets

•The Foundling

Enjoy a bath before bedtime

A study has found that taking a hot bath around 90-minutes before bed can help people fall asleep quicker as the hot water helps change your body’s core temperature so that you go to bed with a slightly lower temperature. This drop in temperature helps to tell your body that it is time for bed.

With walk in baths and walk in showers, older people with mobility problems can still enjoy a nice warm bath or shower before they go to bed and they can do this independently.

Kathy Cakebread recommends going for a warm bath as part of your night-time routine: “The warm water will help to redirect your blood circulation to your hands and feet, redirecting it away from your core, this, in turn, will lower your body temperature. As your body temperature generally drops when you go to sleep, having a warm bath will help you drop off sooner as your body temperature would already be fairly low. Team this with a glass of warm milk and you will be able to relieve any anxieties that may have stemmed throughout the day, settling your mind and letting you leave your worries until another day.”

Write down things that are on your mind

Sometimes writing down things in a notepad or on a piece of paper which are playing on your mind is a great way to stop it from affecting your sleep.

This is something that Sally, the blogger behind Life Loving, likes to do before bed.

“Before bed, write down anything that is playing on your mind. You'll be able to drift off easier as they won't be going around in your head.”

Laura Kate Lucas also makes a list of things she wants to do the next day. She said: “I'd also recommend making a list or writing anything down that you want to do the next day or that is on your mind. I'm always so busy and if I don't write things down, I tend to not be able to sleep because I'm thinking about things I need to do or remember!”

Ensure your bedroom is dark and cosy

Darkness is essential to sleep as the lack of light sends a signal to your body that it is time to rest, while exposure to light can alter your body’s internal ‘sleep clock’.

Family and lifestyle blogger Jane Duckworth, who runs the Jane’s World blog, explains how you should keep your room dark at night and tidy.

“Environment is key to discovering a relaxing bedtime. Ensure bedrooms are kept not only dark and cosy, but also tidy of everyday paraphernalia which could distract the mind from relaxing into sleep.”

Lisa Artis adds: “Don’t sit in bright light. In an evening, consider dimming the lights or using lamps for a more calming environment. In a darker environment, our melatonin levels start to increase which is what we need to feel sleepy.”

Only go to bed when sleepy

Going to bed earlier than you normally would doesn’t mean you are going to get a better night’s sleep and it can actually impact how well you sleep. By going to bed one or two hours early, there is less drive to sleep and the timing may be off.

Dr. M.K. Rasmussen adds: “If your bedtime arrives and you are not sleepy, stay up a few minutes longer. The longer we stay awake, the more we ‘crave’ sleep due to the accumulation of sleep-promoting substances in our brain. This ‘appetite for sleep’ is called ‘homeostatic sleep drive’ or ‘sleep pressure’. Sleep drive is essential for falling asleep at night, for maintaining sleep during the night, as well as for our sleep quality.”

Decrease night-time blue light exposure

It is important that you get your night-time environment right and something that Dr. M.K. Rasmussen from The Centre for Sleep and Human Performance says is important to consider is decreasing your Night-time blue light exposure.

“Blue light sends a signal to our brain to wake up! This ‘alerting effect’ can make it harder to fall asleep, wake you up in the middle of the night and reduce REM ‘dream sleep’.”

Below are some tips to decrease your night-time blue light exposure:

•Light restriction before bedtime improves our subjective quality of sleep and increases our alertness the next morning. It also helps advance the onset of melatonin secretion which helps us fall asleep earlier in the evening. This strategy can help “evening owls” to better cope with an early morning work and social schedule.

•Blue light blocking glasses reduce blue light exposure to your eyes. The warmest setting = more red light and less violet light. It is important to note that the “dim mode” on our computers and phones has yet to be scientifically proven to be efficient against blue light.

•Wear blue light blocking glasses or make sure the lighting in your home is dim (avoid overhead lighting) at least 2 hours before bedtime.

Things to avoid in your night-time routine

Avoid taking sleeping pills

If you are struggling to sleep it can be tempting to turn to sleeping pills, but Kathy Cakebread thinks this should be a last resort.

She said: “When you're trying to get to sleep, whatever you do avoid taking sleeping pills. Unless you have been diagnosed with insomnia, taking sleeping pills will make the problem worse. You will grow to rely on them and find you cannot get to sleep without taking one. They will also leave you feeling groggy and not wanting to wake up in the morning.”

Avoid drinking alcohol before bed

Although alcohol has sedative effects that can induce feelings of relaxation and sleepiness, drinking alcohol - especially in excess - has been associated with poor sleep. In fact, alcohol has been discovered to increase the symptoms of sleep apnoea.

Jane Duckworth adds: “Avoid drinking too much alcohol before bedtime as studies show this can actually reduce restorative sleep patterns. Instead, stick to warm milky drinks such as cocoa, but not too large a mug otherwise you'll be disturbed in the night by needing the loo!”

Avoid drinking caffeine

According to an article on CNBC, there are multiple studies which state that you should avoid drinking coffee in the evening.

It has been found that caffeine can disrupt your sleep up to six hours after you’ve drunk it. It is, therefore, best to avoid drinking caffeine in the evening.

Avoiding coffee in your night-time routine is something that Sally, who also runs the All That Grows blog, does. She said: “Definitely don't drink caffeine in the evenings. Make your last caffeinated drink by 5pm and it will help you slumber better.”

Lisa Artis also says that if you over-indulge it can make it harder to sleep: “Don’t over-indulge. Too much food, caffeine or alcohol, especially late at night, just before bedtime, can play havoc with sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially but will interrupt your sleep later on in the night.”

If you are struggling to sleep, then these tips are just some of the things that you can include in your night-time routine as well as some things which you should look to avoid doing before bed.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only and are up to date as of the time of publishing