Friday, January 6, 2017

A Good Night's Sleep?

A few days ago, I bought a Christmas present "to me". This is something I rarely do-there is not much I "need" and normally this is the kind of thing that when my offspring ask me what I want, I might mention.  The problem was that before Christmas, I had no idea that I wanted a Kindle Paperwhite.

In the past few months, I have been operating with a smart phone and a Samsung Tablet (I don't "do" Apple). I got a really good permanent keyboard for my tablet so I can use it like a mini laptop. I also was taking the tablet out of the case and reading my kindle on the LED screen every night.  

Now, I had heard from a variety of folks that watching that screen prior to sleep was a very bad idea, especially as I was intensively discussing my lack of ability to sleep without drugs.  But until I visited my daughter in Texas I had not realized the how huge the difference in screens were. Completely different, my friends.  Since I generally read in bed and then fall asleep, this is my first step in my goal to sleep better and longer. I now leave my tablet/laptop a good couple hours before getting into bed, and do my "fall asleep while reading" on a completely different, less intensive (and more adjustable) screen.

Now, regular readers know about my sleep issues. Prior to my widowhood, I was a light sleeper (as many women who are moms are I expect). I always woke up if one of my kids got up, and when my husband came home and generally woke a few times in the night and went back to sleep. Post widowhood, that problem became worse for a variety of reasons. Certainly the empty bed was a part of that problem. But I also went through a huge period of stress and depression, as well as gaining a huge a mount of weight as I ate and spent myself through my first year or so of retirement. The bottom line is that I was often getting just a few hours of sleep-and then falling asleep in mid afternoon for a couple hours if I was lucky.  I also have had mild chronic pain that has developed into serious chronic pain that worsens and cannot be reversed. Sleep was difficult to say the least. 

Readers also know that my first step in this direction was to allow myself to use medical pot-and this has certainly helped in more ways than I can say. I still have pain during the day, but can deal with it better after a good night's sleep. (THC makes you sleepy, so I am looking for a different kind of pot for daytime use when I am home and don't have to drive)There are no words to say what a difference this has made. But pot is not legal everywhere, and although it lets me avoid opoids I would rather find other ways to get a better night's sleep that I can use in addition to my "Colorado Medicine".

I am surely not the only person, or only senior who has sleep issues. People across the spectrum have sleeping issues-and many people simply think they can burn the candle at both ends. But lack of sleep affects brain function, and the brain does not regenerate. Lost sleep damage cannot be replenishes by sleeping all Saturday, in other words. Lack of sleep affects our skin, obesity, diabetes, and more. This article is a great link to the damage to your health, depending on how much sleep you have missed. Sleep disorders increase with aging, and affects everything from our cognitive abilities to increased falling.

So, how to get more sleep, or a more restful night?  This is something I've been looking at for awhile. While there are always plenty of articles and viewpoints, there does seem to be a consensus about a few steps that we can take to sleep better. For what it's worth, I am a work in progress, and am slowly working towards these steps:


  • Try and keep to a similar schedule. We all have those day, like New Year's Even or special celebrations, or days when families or emergencies affect our sleep time. I try very hard to do this-I aim to be changed and ready for bed at a certain time. In my case sleep time is a fair guarantee, as it takes my medicine about two hours to hit me (even with help I am still a night owl who sleeps sometime after midnight.
  • Having said that, if you can't sleep by fifteen minutes to a half an hour, get up and move around, get a drink, or read quietly and then try again later. Nothing is worse than lying in bed (especially if the other person is out cold) and not being able to sleep. This one has always been a huge issue for me, but I have learned that even if I have to get up and quietly go to another room for awhile the people around me suffer more if I am cranky and sleepless.
  • Food can affect your seep. If you go to bed extremely full, or hungry, you can have a rough night. I drink milk at bedtime and I also have some crackers on hand in case I wake up. Also, smoking, alcohol and caffeine can affect your sleep as well. One of the reasons I no longer drink red wine in the evening is that this was affecting me drastically.
  • Make a routine, as small or large as you can.It can be taking a bath before bed or listening to music.  In my case I am an evening shower kind of gal (that's why the short hair, ya know?). So my routine includes the shower, a glass of milk or T, fifteen minutes of meditation with a candle, and low lights in my bedroom.
  • Make your room a sleep room. Depending on the size of your home it may be more difficult. For years, my husband and I had a large bedroom and no office of any kind, so our huge bedroom also housed the desk and computer and so on-but we never used it when the other person was asleep. At the moment I am blessed to have a bedroom that is a bedroom. I never do homework or anything in my room and I absolutely refuse to have a TV, when leads me to....
  • Leave behind both the TV and other electronic devices. Research increasingly shows that screen time two hours before bedtime affects our ability to sleep and sleep well. This is where my trusty Kindle paperwhte comes in. I don't need to have other lights on as it is back lit, and lets me read on a non-led/LCD screen.
  • Finally, exercise. Moderate exercise throughout your day is a good thing and helps you sleep.  That after dinner walk is a great thing on many levels. More active exercise done to close to bedtime is liable to keep you awake for longer than you would like. On the other hand, yoga, or tai chi, like meditation can help you sleep. I sometimes do a half hour aerobic program at home at four in the after noon-especially if I have spent a full day sewing or doing other lazy things. But I am trying to move it earlier, and would never do it later than that.
And there you have it-the quick down and dirty about how to maybe sleep a little better, and maybe even get some more sleep.  I am a work in progress, and continue  to try and make strides in the sleeping area as well as my overall health.

Some folks may have noticed that I did not include Tylenol PM, Melatonin for sleep, or even the marijuana chocolate bar that I eat.  While I know tons of people for whom these fairly non traditional methods work, because we are behind the curve in the US on research of herbs and supplements and the like, I would just say that there are plenty of places to do online research and explore various options. 

We often have to experiment to find what works for us, but in my journey, I would say it's well worth it.

How about you folks reading. Do you need help to sleep? Do you sleep through the night? What do you do to ensure a good night's sleep, if you are getting one now.

19 comments:

  1. Yes I have been having problems sleeping. I've always been a night owl but in the last years took it too far and I started to get insomnia. I am now re-training myself to bump up the sleep schedule by half an hour here and there until I get back to normal sleep times. It takes effort but it is working.

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    1. Yes, it takes time and we often have to experiment to find what works for us, I think.

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  2. I used to fall asleep in just moments, pre-menopause-- my husband marveled at how fast! Now, a different story. (Who knew estrogen affected SLEEP???) It takes a bit longer and is sometimes frustrating. Once in a while I have taken some melatonin, and it knocks me out like a hammer! I also wake up with a very moody hangover.. not for me! I have taken Benadryl on occasion (like a tylenol pm) and it also just drugs me up badly and I am sleepy for 2 days in a row after one dose!! (You can see why I mostly do natural medicine no drugs!!) All the other stuff you recommend helps a lot: regular bedtimes, a bath, aromatherapy (lavendar).. and avoidance of stimulating news and tech devices. I also do progressive relaxation exercises and "reconnection" natural healing to my Self.. and usually that all does the trick. But it isn't as easy as it used to be that's for sure!

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    1. With the pot I sometimes have a brief hangover-I generally spend an hour of morning time sitting in my chair and meditating and such and then it is gone, but it is not a moody thing. I have also started using a diffuser in the evening to help.

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  3. I usually fall asleep within minutes of turning off Netflix on my tablet. Though there are periods when a good, restful sleep evades me. Your steps are what I use when things are not going well.

    God bless.

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    1. Good for you that you sleep so well.

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  4. My sleeping is totally of course. So much so that I am getting worried. Some nights I don't sleep at all and then start my day at 9AM (with no sleep) only to pass out for hours around 3PM. This is NOT good. I need to finally set up a routine and go to sleep. My problem is trying to get my brain to go to sleep. She keeps coming up with all these wonderful ideas at 1AM in the morning. Stop it!
    Thanks for sharing some of your tips. I have to try them.

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    1. We all have to experiment and try what works for us, so I hope you get some relief

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  5. I'm a nightowl, but after I became a widow I overdid the irregular hours which ultimately adversely affected my health -- body just didn't accommodate irregular instances as well as when I was younger. I've had to make more of an effort to eat regularly, and get in more hours sleep. Usually has always taken even up to an hour before I drop off to sleep unless I've had a lot of outside physical labor which I don't get much of in my older years. But I don't fret, or watch the clock if I don't fall asleep right away, relax just laying in bed, so rarely get up (except for bathroom trips I've had to make since older). Never had TV in room & don't want it. Sometimes leave my all news radio station on softly. Instrumental easy-listening music always pleasant but not set up presently for that. Rarely read in bed as can get so caught up in some books I don't want to stop reading then reach a point I can't get to sleep. Have never used meds or other products to sleep, but know that anyone experiencing constant pain as my husband had must sometimes find relief with med help. Med pot wasn't avail for him, so don't know if he would have tried it instead of sleeping pills that he took with unwelcome side effects.

    Your recommendations all sound quite good as we each explore what will work for us.

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    1. I am also a night owl, but trying a little bit to become less of one. I am generally asleep between twelve and one.

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  6. After becoming a widow, good sleep alludes me. I don't worry with it though. My pattern is to wake up too early (5:00 ish) and my brain kicks in usually in a negative way. Then the day progresses without ever feeling a need to nap, but I can fall asleep easily watching TV at night as early as 800. I do take my IPad to bed and it the last thing I look at at night and it seems to have no effect in falling asleep fairly quickly. It's just this early rising and the "monkey brain", as I've heard it called. As my husband use to say, it is what it is.

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  7. I slept well while I was taking hormone replacement therapy estrogen, but when my medication was dropped by the Medicare formulary a couple of years ago, I had to go off it because I could not afford the $400 a month cost. Since then, I have a lot of trouble sleeping. Part of it is due to my pets' behaviors (cat wants to lay on my face and dog snores). But regardless of the cause, I have not slept through the night in years. I know it takes a toll on my alertness and cognitive ability. I have tried all of your suggestions except for marijuana. I've come to believe there is nothing more I can do about it. Thanks for your post.

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    1. Have you tried using one of the menopausal supplements like black cohosh? I slept terribly going through the hot flash period I know.

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    2. Keep your pets out of the room, I'd say. Or would they start howling then?

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  8. I have also been a night on computer person. And paid the consequences by lying awake when I went to bed.

    I recently learned about a download from f.lux from justgetflux.com that works with your screen light system to remove the blue light (daylight) that is actually responsible for affecting your melatonin and thus keeping you awake.

    I was kinda skeptical but it truly does work!!! I can sit and play spider solitaire as a wind down activity and the no longer bluelight in the screen does not affect me when I go to bed. I learned about this on www.lifehacker.com which I go to daily for all sorts of tips, info, Amazon deals, etc.

    f.lux can be downloaded onto your smartphone, tablet, monitor, you name it. And yes, I know I am enabling you to revert to previous bad habits (grin) but IF you absolutely HAD to be online, you would be protected.

    On another note, I have been reading your blog with great interest from when you were living in Texas and have enjoyed your posts immensely.

    Jeannine in Iowa

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    1. My new phone has that screen thing, it puts a different filter on the screen at night. I think it is helpful, but overall I find I sleep better when I do not take a "screen" to bed, particularly one with Internet access as I scroll endlessly through junk. A Kindle is better because it's got a dull screen and I don't have the option of popping over to see recent posts.

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  9. Reading non-fiction books at bed time....not a novel that keeps you reading late. Also..... Listening to Rick Steves travel podcasts....especially if I have already heard it so I am not so keyed into what he is talking about.

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  10. Prior to menopause and retirement, I spent many a sleepless night. I would have laughed at anyone who suggested that I could go to bed at 10PM and sleep for most of 8-10hrs with 1-2 bathroom breaks. I've always considered it a good night if I managed 6hrs of uninterrupted sleep. My routine: in bed usually by 10PM, read, listen to music on the radio. I'm usually asleep within 30 min. I like a dark, i.e. blackened room, and cool temperature. There are still some sleepless nights. Now that I don't have to get up for work, I sometimes get up and watch tv, or do some task in the kitchen, or read, knowing that I can rest the following day if I need to. I might also just lie in bed and do some deep breathing.

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  11. This was definitely one of my favorite blogs. Every post published did impress me. CPAP

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