Do you sleep well? As we age, that good ol’ sleep that we so depend on can become an issue. A big issue. And it’s not just the annoyance of tossing and turning in the night that is the downside of skimping on sleep.

Lack of sleep has been correlated with catching colds more easily, weight gain or inability to lose weight, increased emotional reactivity, depression, impaired focus and memory. Even an increased risk of chronic disease like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart disease is linked to sleep deficits.

I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve seen who say that adults need less sleep and they’re fine with 5 to 6 hours a night. Wrong! While adults do need less sleep than kids, the official recommendation is 7- 9 hours a night. Are you getting what you need? If not, then find out why.

Common causes of insomnia include:

  • Stress, especially mental or emotional
  • Anxiety or Depression
  • Irregular cortisol levels due to stress or low blood sugar
  • Hormonal (men and women)
  • Sleep Apnea

Nearly all causes of insomnia can be treated naturally with acupuncture, herbs, nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes. While you get started, here are some absolutes to getting a good nights rest.

Go to bed (best by 10 or 11 pm) and wake up around the same time every day.

Make your bedroom a sanctuary
That’s right. Your bedroom is your private place where you nourish and rejuvenate yourself. Most important is your bed- use your bed strictly for sleep or sex. Do not watch TV in bed or bring work in bed. Strive to keep your bedroom a place of peace and rest by having emotionally charged conversations elsewhere.

Lights out
Sleep in as much complete darkness as possible or use an eye mask. If you have electronic devices in your bedroom with small lights, put a piece of tape over them.

Keep it cool
Studies show that the best temperature for sleeping is pretty cool, 60-68 degrees. Set your bedroom thermostat below 70 degrees.

Check in with your bed partner
We love sleeping with our partners. It’s romantic and feels natural but is it the best for your sleep? Maybe not. Snoring, tossing and turning, even a stressed out bed partner can have major effects on our sleep. Consider sleeping in separate rooms when the issue arises. Even better suggest he or she get help to figure out the root cause of their sleep issues so you can rest better together.

Look into Sleep Apnea
Do you snore? Do you wake up with a sore or dry throat? Do you feel like you’re not sleeping deeply or wake multiple times during the night? Sleep apnea is a very common and often undiagnosed problem. It occurs when your airways are blocked during sleep, so your body wakes you up to make sure you don’t suffocate. If your cause of insomnia remains unexplained, talk to your doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea. Most cases of sleep apnea can be treated with an easy-to-use oral device.

Avoid substances that disturb sleep like alcohol, sugar and caffeine
Alcohol may make you feel relaxed and ready to fall asleep but the effects are short lived. A few hours later after metabolizing in your body, that same drink is likely to wake you up in the middle of the night. Sugar and caffeine- also no no’s.

Practice a pre-sleep ritual
Are you watching the news, answering emails or checking your facebook page 20 minutes before you go to bed? Bad idea if you’re someone who enjoys a good nights rest.The lights on TV, computer screens and cellphones can interfere with melatonin production up to 40% if used within an hour before bed. Find another way to wind down.

Create a presleep ritual: About 1-2 hours before you got to bed, turn off as many lights as possible. Do something quiet and relaxing like meditation (seated or lying), deep breathing, listening to peaceful music or reading.

Work out your emotional stuff
Chronic stress elevates cortisol levels and interferes with sleep. Try not to go to bed stressed, worried or upset. Journal if you find yourself list-making or mentally trying to work out a problem. Use deep breathing if you are having a hard time letting go of your stress or emotions.

Eat a high protein snack right before bed
What? Eat right before bed? It may be contrary to every weight loss rule you’ve ever heard but don’t worry, eating a small snack (if it’s the right kind) won’t make you gain weight. During the night our blood sugar naturally drops, and this can be part of the reason for waking. Try eating a tablespoon of almond or peanut butter before bed if you eat dinner more than 3 hours before bed or if you’re feeling hungry.