Having a purpose in life and being motivated helps people sleep better at night, claims a new study by researchers at Northwestern University in the US. The study found that there are drug-free alternatives for people suffering from sleep disorders.
Those who suffer from sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders, often pop sleeping pills to ensure a good night's rest. But the study conducted on 800 people found that helping people to cultivate a purpose in life is an effective drug-free strategy to improve the quality of sleep.
Dr Ramana Prasad.V Velamuru, a pulmonologist and respiratory intensivist in Hyderabad, says: “Insomnia is common among depressed patients, who may suffer from a range of insomnia symptoms, including difficulty falling asleep (sleep onset insomnia), difficulty staying asleep (sleep maintenance insomnia), unrefreshing sleep, and daytime sleepiness. Research suggests the risk of developing depression is highest among people with both sleep onset and sleep maintenance insomnia.”
Meditation, listening to soft music, or reading a book before bedtime can help one to relax while focusing one's thoughts on neutral or pleasant topics. Sleep disturbances are found to increase as one gets older so it is important to cultivate a hobby that ensures that enough energy is used during the day to make sleep easier at night.
Dr Srinivas Kishore, a sleep specialist, says it's a misconception that as you age your sleep decreases. “It is not so. Research has shown that sleep is constant during all stages in life. Lack of sleep is due to physical and psychiatric illness. Apart from medication, various therapies are used to improve sleep patterns.”
The amount of sleep required by adults is seven to eight hours, and this is constant throughout the adult years. In senior citizens, sleep is less deep and choppier than in younger people. This could be due to illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, heart problems, arthritis or lifestyle conditions. People may also have difficulty sleeping if they are depressed, anxious, and suffer from extreme irritation, which leads them to be always angry and upset with everyone.
For this reason, it is important that older adults are occupied and have something to look forward to. When there is a purpose, the pattern of sleep stabilises as the mind is focused and working towards a goal.
How to sleep better
- Clear your head of concerns by writing down a list of activities to do the next day. Then tell yourself you will think about it tomorrow.
- Get regular exercise | but no later than a few hours before bedtime. Daily exercise, including stretching and conditioning exercises, can help facilitate sleep and relieve the associated anxiety many people have about staying asleep.
- Avoid looking at a bright screen (laptop, TV, phone) prior to bedtime because the light emitted from LCD screens can suppress release of the natural hormone melatonin, which signals the brain to go to sleep.
- High levels of arousal associated with racing thoughts, worries, or rumination may delay sleep onset. Relaxation therapies such as yoga and deep abdominal breathing may be useful in initiating sleep.
- Don't use caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine in the evening.
- Don't lie in bed tossing and turning. Get out of bed and do some light activity (such as reading or listening to soft music) in another room when you can't sleep. Go back to bed when you feel drowsy.
- Use the bed only for sleeping and sex. Don't lie in bed to watch TV or read. This way, your bed becomes a cue for sleeping, not for lying awake.
- Take a warm shower right before bedtime to increase deep sleep as your body cools.
- Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
- Wear earplugs and a sleep mask if noise and light bother your sleep.
- Get blackout shades for your bedroom to keep outside lights from bothering you.