As men and women age, hormonal profiles begin to change dramatically, causing several symptoms that disturb quality of life and make one feel rather depleted and off kilter. One of those symptoms, which middle-agers tend to prioritize resolving, is insomnia or delayed sleep onset.
The body produces a hormone expressly to regulate circadian rhythm; as diurnal mammals (sleep at night, awake during the day), our sleep/wake cycles naturally align with sunlight. Melatonin is released in pulses by the pineal gland in the base of the skull, which makes us sleepy after the sun sets. It stops around or before sunrise so we can awaken fully.
Further, aging slows down production of growth hormone (GH); low levels of GH shorten deep sleep (also known as slow-wave sleep). And, as is typical with hormones interrelating – GH affects melatonin production, so low GH equals low melatonin, which then equals – sleeplessness.
In individuals experiencing high or chronic stress, elevated levels of the hormone cortisol can also prolong sleep onset.
Specific immune biochemicals likewise can affect healthy sleep. For example, there have been some studies showing that people with insomnia have higher levels of the cytokines tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6 during the day than at night. Those who have healthy sleep cycles exhibit higher levels of these cytokines at night.
Extracts of the herbs Tongkat ali and Andrographis paniculata are examples of dietary supplements that may help modulate and regulate healthy hormonal and immune profiles. For more details and the science, visit www.lj100, and www.hpingredients.com.
Here are nine tips to help achieve better sleep – without drugs.
Turn it all off: Turn off devices and don’t fall asleep to the TV. The artificial light (and sound) keep you awake, and the blue light from devices interrupt certain sleep waves.
Keep consistency in bedtime. Develop a slow-down routine – watch TV, read – for about an hour before sleep, and keep that target “to bed” time within a half hour, such as 10:00 to 10:30, or 11:00 to 11:30, etc.
Take a bath: Taking a warm bath helps relax muscles and eases tension. This is especially helpful for those people who do feel physically tense after long days; enhance the effect with Epsom salts.
Use herbs: Herbs such as valerian and chamomile have been shown in various studies to help induce sleep. Herbal tea, such as Sleepytime (many people swear by this) also can help.
Keep caffeine for mornings only: Coffee, black tea and any other energizing beverage (or food) that contains caffeine should be limited to mornings. You can be sensitive to it, and even afternoon caffeine can linger, delaying sleep.
Eat dinner earlier: If you eat your heaviest meal for dinner (and most people do), eat at least three to four hours prior to bedtime. Digestion can keep you up, and digestive disturbances can cause nightmares in some people.
Curtail alcohol intake: There’s a reason “happy hour” is before dinner! Because alcohol, which may make you feel relaxed, disrupts sleep. We’ve all had those times when we indulged, fell asleep – only to wake up a few hours later, tossing and turning. That is not hormones making you flail around the bed, that’s the alcohol.
Do next-day prep after dinner: Whether it’s arranging your next day’s outfit, getting the coffee ready for the simple “push,” or making last-minute notes about the morning and afternoon meetings and appointments, get all this done so there is no next-day worries or thoughts to keep your brain awake and anxious. Also – do this before you begin your wind-down.
Exercise: During the day, a brisk walk or your fitness session helps blood flow, and can actually help you sleep better that night, especially as your body becomes conditioned to working out and getting into better physical shape.