As the years pass, many find it harder to get to sleep and to stay that way.

And it matters, because getting enough sleep is as vital as healthy eating and getting exercise.

Not sleeping enough can increase your appetite – and thus your waistline, damage your health – including causing pre-diabetes, impair your immune function – more colds, make you irritable, lessen your ability to concentrate and think clearly, and reduce your ability to interact socially.

More than that, lack of sleep can also speed up the aging process.

  • Why do we struggle to sleep?

    The big picture as to why we struggle to sleep, some suggest, is down to the light bulb. This made it possible for shift work, longer daytime hours, evenings watching television and a whole bunch of other social alterations. The rhythm of life changed and so did the rhythm of sleeping and waking.

    As to why sleep changes with age, science still struggles to explain it. One theory is it is all in the brain. That the cluster of neurons that regulate our sleep slowly die as we get older. As a result, the brain fails to pick up the signals that it is time to sleep.

    There are also the factors of increased weight and decreased health that come in later years. Studies show the better your health, and the less overweight you are, the better you are likely to sleep.

    Snoring is part of that picture – something most commonly associated with excess weight. This will not stop the snorer from falling asleep but when it is loud enough to wake them, even for seconds, the quality of their sleep plummets.

  • 20 ways to get a better night’s sleep

    Not every one of these techniques, by itself, will get you to sleep. But a few of them at least should prove successful. For the best results, work at them over a period of time. You may need two to four weeks to see the best results.

    1. Go to bed only when sleepy.
    2. Use the bed only for sleeping — and that other thing.
    3. If you can’t sleep, move to another room. Stay up until you feel sleepy and then return to bed. If sleep does not come get out of bed again. The aim is to associate your bed with falling asleep easily. Repeat this step as often as is necessary throughout the night.
    4. Set the alarm and get up at the same time every morning, regardless of how much you have slept through the night.
    5. Take some exercise in the late afternoon or early evening.
    6. Drink herb tea.
    7. Get a massage.
    8. Try eating foods just before bed time that have tryptophan — like turkey and bananas.
    9. Sleep on a good firm bed.
    10. Sleep on your back.
    11. Don’t sleep in.
    12. Spend 20 minutes in a hot bath not long before going to bed.
    13. Keep the room temperature as constant as you can.
    14. Drink a glass of warm milk — as milk contains an amino acid that converts to a sleep-enhancing compound in the brain.
    15. Use simple relaxation and mind clearing exercises.
    16. Keep a note pad by the bed to write down things that come to mind that you worry you might forget.
    17. Go to bed at the same time each day.
    18. Get regular exercise each day.
    19. Keep the bedroom quiet when sleeping – and use a good make of ear plugs.
    20. Keep the bedroom dark enough. Use dark blinds or wear an eye mask if needed.

    When you go to bed, relax your muscles, beginning with your feet and working your way up to your head.

  • 10 things not to do before going to bed

    1. Don’t exercise just before going to bed.
    2. Do not nap excessively during the daytime.
    3. Avoid ‘trying to sleep’.
    4. Avoid illuminated bedroom clocks.
    5. Don’t watch a computer or tablet screen for the period leading up to going to sleep
    6. Don’t stimulate your mind just before bedtime through things like playing a competitive game of cards or watching an exciting TV programme.
    7. Avoid caffeine. Remember caffeine is present in chocolate, as well as regular coffee or tea, and caffeinated soft drinks.
    8. Don’t read or watch television in bed.
    9. Don’t use alcohol to help you sleep.
    10. Don’t take another person’s sleeping pills.
  • The value of a nap

    A unique benefit that comes from being after-work is you can take a nap whenever you wish. That’s good and bad. The bad is if you overdo it and inflict damage on your night time sleep pattern. But the good is wonderful if you get it right.

    Studies shown that adults who regularly take an afternoon nap have a better ability to learn and a memory that functions better. It seems a short nap is like a reboot for your brain. Just 10 to 20 minutes is quite enough to refresh your mind and increase your energy and alertness.

  • Chronic insomnia

    The word ‘insomnia’ covers all kinds of lack of sleep — from the occasional to the weeks-on-end variety. But it is chronic insomnia — the kind that does on and on — that creates the most pressure and needs the most help.

    The prevalence of insomnia is higher among older adults. Insomnia may be chronic – lasting over one month, or acute -lasting a few days or weeks. And it is often related to an underlying cause such a period of major stress or a medical condition

    If nothing works to help you, talk to your doctor — and if sleeping pills are prescribed be sure to take them only as directed. They are mainly used to treat the short-lasting insomnia that can impact us following a bereavement or other major change.

Do you have a tip on how to get a better night’s sleep? Please join the AfterWorkNet Facebook community and tell us. And don’t forget to Sign Up to our blog.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife