Meet Margaret – Sleep Advice for the over 55’s
Margaret doesn’t struggle to fall asleep, but she wakes very early. Throughout the night she wakes up for a variety of reasons, including temperature, comfort and her husband’s snoring. Her doctor has advised her that her sleep problems are due to her age and arthritis. Margaret drinks caffeine after 5pm and does not exercise much, and her evening routine is very stimulating.
Margaret’s temperature fluctuates, causing her to become too hot, then too cold. She should ensure her bedroom environment is between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius. In terms of her bed, she should consider a wool, alpaca, silk or bamboo duvet cover, which will help to regulate body temperature for sleep. She should look for a mattress that regulates temperature or offers breathable options.
Her husband’s snoring should be looked at by a professional, as this is an indication of Sleep Apnoea. A change of mattress will help both of them. An adjustable bed will provide them a surface that adapts to their individual sleep postures, helping them both to sleep soundly.
Margaret’s pre-sleep routine needs to be less stimulating. She should not talk on the phone before bed, as this wakes her brain up. If she watches television, she should choose something funny and light-hearted; a complicated or gripping film will prevent her from switching off. Margaret should take a warm bath before bed, helping her body temperature to drop, and then enjoy an activity such as knitting or a jigsaw, which are not too taxing.
Throughout the day, Margaret should avoid caffeine after 3pm, which will help her body to produce melatonin. She could try some mild exercise, like a 30-minute walk, as this will expose her to sunlight and tire her out gently.
Along with her calming activities, Margaret could try Yogic breathing techniques. The “4-7-8 method” could be very effective, where we breathe in for four seconds, hold our breath for seven seconds, and then breathe out with a slow ‘whoosh’ sound for eight seconds.
It is clear that Margaret has always been an early riser, so 5.45-6am is her ideal wake up time. As such, she should try to be asleep by 10.30pm. We know that environmental factors play a key role in stealing sleep, so she must ensure her environment is right before beginning this programme.
8pm: Margaret should have her evening meal before this time. She should also stop drinking caffeine after 3pm.
9.30pm – The Golden Hour: Margaret’s wind down routine should include a bath or shower, along with knitting, a jigsaw, or another peaceful activity. She should avoid phone calls or challenging television programmes at this time. Before bed, she should carry out the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
10.30pm – Bedtime: If Margaret wakes in the night she should practice the 4-7-8 technique again. If she is awake for more than 30 minutes, she should get up and begin the process again.
5.45-6am – Wake Up: Margaret may find that she sleeps in at the beginning of this programme, however this will settle down eventually. Within half an hour of waking, she should have breakfast, and then make sure she stays hydrated throughout the day.
As with all sleep programmes, things may get worse before they get better. It may take Margaret up to a month for her body to settle into this routine.