ALOHA FROM JENNIE: Most of our dogs greatly enjoy their slumber, but a few of us seniors sometimes have problems nodding off for the night, so we've been trying to observe the 'rules' for sleeping well:
- Attempt to establish a consistent sleep cycle (around the same number of sleep hours during the same time slot each night) to achieve that optimal circadian rhythm.
- A short nap of less than 30 minutes in the early afternoon to make up for some lost sleep is refreshing, but don't overdo as it can worsen insomnia. Don't nap after dinner even if you're drowsy, since you might then have trouble getting to sleep at your regular bedtime.
- Unless you're like the dogs pictured above who love eating, playing, and watching TV in bed and then can fall fast asleep, don't use your bed for anything but restful activities so that your mind associates the bed with sleep. Use soft lights before bedtime and maintain a dark and cool bedroom with a comfortable mattress.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and large rich meals during the two hour period prior to bedtime. Smokers also may have difficulties sleeping because nicotine is a stimulant.
- Develop relaxation techniques prior to drifting off, such as closing your eyes and thinking of a tranquil place, take slow deep breaths, and tense your muscles tightly and then completely relax them, starting with your toes and ending with your neck.
- Try to avoid thinking about your stresses and anxieties at bedtime, the problems will still exist the next day and you'll tackle them better after a good night's sleep (we know, easier said than done). For some, 'white noise' from a sound machine or an air conditioner helps to turn off stimulation, while for others it might be too much of a distraction.
- If you've been tossing and turning for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and do a non-stimulating activity like reading in dim light for a short period or drinking some herbal tea, and then return to bed.
One of my 'happy place' thoughts is envisioning how much our pups relish sleeping, their peaceful faces full of contentment as they settle into their 'den', and that's often inspiration to try and get a good night of human sleep!
If anyone has techniques that help with sleep, please pass on your tips in the Comments section.