Tips for Aging Gracefully and Successfully
Boomer’s–Don’t Let Aging Take You Down
A Continuation from Last Week
“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.”
First and foremost, thank you for following this saga on aging, not just aging, but aging gracefully and successfully. As part of my series, I want to now share what I consider to be one of the most important aspects of our lifestyle—SLEEP.
Truly one of the most vital aspects of life and good health, yet how many of us don’t get our recommended daily dose of great sleep, or even good sleep. As you probably know, medical guidelines for us Boomers suggest anywhere from 7 to 9-hours of sleep per night.
Sleep is absolutely fundamental to a happy, healthy lifestyle, especially as we age. Most likely many of us will experience a change in sleep patterns such as the quality of sleep and the duration.
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”
If you take a step back to your biology class, the pineal gland is tied to several other brain functions that control our circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle. As you might guess, our circadian rhythm deteriorates over time (as we age) and causes disruptions in our sleep pattern so that we feel tired or not alert during the day. One of the imperatives as we age is to not only nourish our brain but also our sleep center with the right tools and wellness benefits.
One way to do that is to moderate your lifestyle and limit the number of changes and drama you experience on a daily basis. Easier said than done in the middle of this COVID pandemic which has uprooted virtually every aspect of our lives so that we don’t know what normal looks like anymore, it is certainly not what we had as normal several years ago.
MINIMIZE STRESS AND ANXIETY. The stress we encounter with mandates, masking, vaccinations, boosters, social distancing, etc. is almost too much to bear. Here’s what I do: I read scientific based journals that are not politicized, I do not watch the news all day long as so many do, and I live my life respecting the vagaries of this virus but not limiting my lifestyle.
POWER NAP. One thing that does happen as a result of all this chaos, I get tired more frequently during the day and find myself wanting to take a 15 to 30-minute power nap. And I do it at or before noon. Any later, and I find that it cuts into my nighttime sleep schedule. And when I find the luxury of time in my daily life, I find an occasional nap is just what I need to give me that boost of energy for the remainder of the day.
YOUR SLEEP ZONE. Your sleep environment should be yours and whatever you wish it to be. I like my bedroom completely darkened and to ensure that, I sleep with a mask over my eyes. I love pillows so I surround my head with a combination of support and some super fluffy, and I regulate the temperature so that I always have covers over me. While I might watch a TV show or two before going to sleep, it’s always something healthy, fun or noteworthy and NOT controversial. Personally, I really like all the shows on HGTV, so much so that I will record them so I can fast forward those segments to help with my viewing enjoyment.
EXERCISE. Now then, let’s talk about one of my favorites. At our age, it is essential we strive for about 30-minutes at least five days a week. It doesn’t need to be high-impact training, but walking at least that long will help reduce stress, weight gain. You don’t need to go to the gym unless you particularly enjoy it. In the home, perhaps using light weight dumb bells, elastic bands, Pilates, small rubber balls for the hands and wrists, treadmill if you have the space, tai chi, etc. You get the picture. All of this will promote your nighttime sleep habits by helping with your body’s time in deep sleep, while reducing daytime sleepiness.
INSOMNIA. I guess you could say as we age, we gradually experience a bit of insomnia. I know I do. Falling asleep and staying asleep are two of my most notable symptoms, along with restless leg syndrome due to my arthritis. While I don’t profess in medicated sleep aids whether they be by prescription or naturally holistic, I do use calming methods before going to sleep such as a light-hearted TV program or good book. Works every time.
BREATHING CARE. One of my very good healthcare providers is a pulmonologist. She says that sleep apnea, the frequent interruption of sound sleep due to breathing difficulties, is one of the most prevalent forms of sleep deprivation among Boomers and seniors. If you feel tired in the morning and afternoon it could be due to this chronic problem and my recommendation is to see your general practitioner as soon as practical for a referral. If your insurance allows, that is if you have a PPO plan, book your own appointment with a pulmonologist right away. They will run a battery of non-invasive evaluations called “PFT’s” (pulmonary function tests) to help identify the degree of breathing impairment.
MEDICATIONS. As we age, we find that we have to take certain medications for our ailments, and often times these medications get in the way of sleep quality due to their side effects. Once again, I would recommend checking with your doctor if you find an unusual amount of ‘awake’ time during the night.
MY HORMONES. Alas, the dreaded subject of hormonal changes. Yes, it seems we can’t get away from the battle of hormonal production decreasing as we age, specifically melatonin, a hormone that responds to darkness and helps promote sleep by coordinating circadian rhythms. I have a number of friends who have chosen to take a melatonin replacement therapy to help with their sleep disorders, but only at the urging of their physician. In my case, I take a natural melatonin and calcium supplement to help with my sleep routine.
DEPRESSION. During this time of pandemic associated stress, it is likely all of us will have some form of insomnia. We care not only about our health and well-being, but also that of our family members and friends and neighbors and as a result we go to bed thinking about this non-normal lifestyle we’ve been living for the past several years. It’s natural then for a certain amount of depression to enter our minds causing anxiety and stress that ultimately results in a wicked closed loop: depression can lead to sleep issues and sleep issues can lead to more depression.
WELLNESS. I have found that true science plays a big part of my daily normalcy. I don’t listen to the news pundits who largely share opinions and nothing much factual. I tend not to get caught up in gossip and I do live my life according to my standards maintaining all the correct health and hygiene measures available. I go to bed knowing that I have delivered the best possible solutions for my well-being and that of my friends and family. Honestly, I sleep better as a result.
LIMIT THE LIQUIDS. And the one last thing on the hit parade of sleep interruption. Stop drinking liquids after dinner. During the morning and afternoon I do drink my fair share of water splashed with lemon and lime. The flavor is magnificent and I know it is acting as a diuretic by flushing my system. However, if I drink it any time after dinner or before I go to bed, I will be all night going to the bathroom. Now that will interrupt anyone’s sleep pattern.
In summary, let’s take a look at what you should be doing to keep a consistent sleep schedule. My BoomerGal tips for aging gracefully and successfully with a good night’s sleep; these work for me and I want to share them openly for you to do with as you choose.
- Get plenty of exercise each day possible.
- Establish a bedtime ritual such as listening to calming music, a heart -warming TV program and/or a good novel.
- Get with your physician if you continue to have sleep deprivation, it could be something more serious which needs attention.
- Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol and liquids later in the day.
- Create your own sleep zone that is yours and yours alone.
- Keep a close eye on napping, as anything other than a power nap might be eating into your sleep time during the night.
I wish you all the success possible in your quest for aging gracefully. Over the course of four weeks, I have attempted to provide you with an overview of possible solutions to achieve just that. It’s important for us Boomers to stick together and I can’t thank you enough for joining me on this brief journey.
Remember to stay RELEVANT in all you do. Your Number One BoomerGal, Connie.
Disclaimer. I am not a physician nor healthcare professional. My content is based on my life experiences and that of research I conduct to use as needed. In every instance, I will either quote or reference said research and give credit to the author(s) accordingly.
Editorial sourcing and contribution: Active Beat,
by Chelsea Dolan and Katherine George