My Midlife Insomnia Journey is not limited to Midlife
Among my friends and often even strangers, conversations abound in search of an answer to the question how can I stay sleep and get my beauty rest. Gone are the days when I would fall into bed and quickly find sleep. Then my eyes would not open until the sun rose 7 or 8 hours later. But over time, my ability to shut down and remain asleep have begun to escape me.
The bewitching hour starts about 3:23 am or 3:43 am. I roll over and I already KNOW I will be facing these weird times with the number 3 that repeat themselves as possible Powerball numbers no matter what time I went to bed. Help!!!! I can't stay sleep.
Who can explain this phenomena? When I was perimenopausal and menopausal, I understood the fluctuation in hormonal level might be the culprit. Given my family medical history, I opted not to take estrogen therapy. But how do I explain the fact that some of my young friends also are dealing with this phenomena? I mean, statistics claim you can die if you don't get enough sleep.
Statistics also suggest that insomnia affects about 30 percent of the American population. After several days of NOT sleeping, I begin to panic because NOT only can I NOT sleep, I begin to worry that I am NOT sleeping and this pushes me over the edge.
I do not use sleeping pills but when I have had extended periods of restlessness that threaten to drive me over the edge, thoughts of using them, I admit, but for dreading the morning after sluggishness, chase me.
In truth, I am adverse to taking anything if there is a natural approach to a physical problem. My thinking is: save the prescription drug medicine as a last possible resort. So imagine my surprise when I came across a British health article that approached insomnia little differently. Here is my interpretation of their report which you can read in its entirety here.
Figure out why you can't sleep
Now this amazes me. If I am unaware that something is bothering me and preventing me from sleep, it is going to be hard to make this mental correction. So if you happen to need help doing this, the article suggests that you take a brief pyscho-therapy course called cognitive behavioral therapy to arrive at the point where you can just tell yourself to drop your negative beliefs.
Take melatonin supplements for a 3 week period.
This conclusion is based on a study that claims a 2 mg oral dose of melatonin will help the mind understand it is bed time. I do not know people who take this regularly so I cannot even comment intelligently.... but it's an option (they say).
Use light therapy in conjunction with melatonin
The reasoning is that melatonin will help you wake up gradually. These lamps can also be used to help you fall asleep. Light therapy, according to this article, "activates areas of the brain promoting alertness, and turns off the sleep hormone melatonin." This follows the "keep the bedroom dark line of thinking." One of my friends swears by light therapy. She has SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and when the seasons change and the days are short and grey, this is what she uses to help her cope.
Clear the Bedroom of all excess stimulation
Long ago I made my bedroom a quasi-sanctuary. More can be done I think. But there are only books, a place for music, Turkish rugs, hypo-allergic pillows and cracked windows for me. But still as I fear I am repeating myself, I do not stay asleep.
This is a funny one. Is the thinking that because anti-histamines are sold over the counter, there is no personal danger in repeatedly taking these. The suggestion is that the Nytols of the world block nerve synapses. However, the accompanying warning is that it could caused muscle spasms. One needs to pick their poison in this regard.
For now I will continue with the the teas of the world that have a long cultural history of providing relief. My daughter-in-law turned me on on Teavana teas and I like these blends very much. A combination of catnip and mint and Valerian alone are other suggested herbs to try. And to confuse you more, here's a list of 15 natural remedies that herbalists seem not to be able to agree upon in terms of their use. I would imagine that each tea has its own properties and might affect people differently.
I am going to be trying a few of these over the next few weeks and I will report my results in a subsequent series on insomnia. Are onto something that those of us who are awake and online in the middle of the night can contemplate, please let me know.
Cross post from www.boomerwizdom.com