Managing insomnia for the over 60's
Insomnia can be debilitating. When you have difficulty falling asleep, remaining asleep, or have consistent early morning awakenings, it can leave you tired, fatigued and exhausted, but that's not all.
Insomnia can also impair cognition, increase irritability and depression, lower your pain threshold and even cause many diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental decline.
While insomnia affects many people, those over 60 are at a higher risk of suffering from it. So to help you, here are some ways you can manage and reduce your insomnia.
Rule out a medical cause first
Before you treat your insomnia with medication, it is important to rule out a medical issue causing it.
Chronic Infections, nutrient deficiencies, sleep apnea, dysglyceamia (blood sugar control issues), heavy metal toxicity, restless leg syndrome, reflux or other digestive disturbances, night sweats (hormonal or infection related) and food intolerances have all been linked to sleep issues.
Also take into consideration any side effects of current medication you are taking that might be impacting on your sleep or lack there of.
Evaluate your lifestyle and environment
Stress, diet and lifestyle changes can also impact our ability to get a good night sleep.
Pollution from noise or light (particularly florescent light and tablet and smart phone screens), stressful circumstances, excess intake of stimulants or alcohol, consumption of caffeine and high Tyramine foods (like banana, chocolate, liver, beans, avocado, yoghurt, cheese and soy bean products) can all impact your sleep.
With this in mind, limit your stress, allow proper wind down time before bed and eat foods rich in Tryptophan like spirulina, chicken livers, pumpkin seeds, turkey, almonds that increase Melatonin and assist in establishing the circadian rhythm.
Develop a sleep protocol
In order to get back into a sleep rhythm you need to develop a sleep protocol or routine. A sleep or bedtime routine will help your body wind down and prepare for sleep.
Obviously you need to develop a routine that works for you, though here are some tips to get you started.
- Get early exposure to morning sunlight to stimulate your circadian rhythm
- Exercise in the morning, not at night
- Avoid caffeine containing beverages after 3pm
- Have a television, laptop, mobile phone and tablet PC ban in your bedroom to minimise exposure to electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation
- Set a regular bedtime that is before 11pm
- Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature and has minimal light and noise
Try natural alternatives before medicating
Medication can often bring about other undesirable side effects and can create a dependency, so it is important it is used as a last resort. Thankfully though, there are some natural alternatives that can help too.
Here are a few to think about:
- Meditation and hypnosis
- Eat more alkaline foods (green vegetables, salad greens, almonds, apricots, figs, carrots)
- Avoid drinking excess fluids at night
- Supplement with essential fatty acids
- Investigate nutritional deficiencies
The following suggestions should be discussed in consultation with your health practitioner to determine the suitability and appropriate dosage.
- Supplement with Adenosine
- Supplement with Melatonin
- Medication review to see if there are other alternatives available
- Alkaline agents (keeping your body as alkaline as possible will improve overall sleep)
- Herbal remedies