Sleep deprivation? Beating midlife’s sleepless nights!

Home Blog Sleep deprivation? Beating midlife’s sleepless nights!
Sleep deprivation? Beating midlife’s sleepless nights!

Midlife keeping you up at night? No, you’re not dreaming this up, although, you probably wish you were at this point and your certainly not alone. Yes! those sleepless nights show up out of nowhere blindsiding the vast majority of us with some candidly eerily similarities: difficulty falling asleep, a few tried and true sleep aids only to find they suddenly stopped working, constantly fluffing your new bedding, tossing and turning with endless trips to the bathroom and numerous doctor visits with more than a few prescriptions to add to your ever-growing medication list. All, at this point, feeling like mere futile attempts and stabs in the dark leaving you discouraged, and quite frankly a bit desperate on your endless quest for some simple shut-eye.

 Here are a few tips I use for my own sleepless nights and in helping other patients since being a Physician doesn’t give you a free get out of midlife card. (trust me! I would have cashed it in by now) But rather, new and up-close experiences and insight into some things you once only treated from afar.

1. Pre Sleep- Yes! you need to start thinking about sleep even before you go to bed. That also includes what you do during the day, spending 30min a day in natural sunlight increases your Vit D levels and improves your circadian rhythm, improving your overall sleep. At least  2 hours before bed, begin the wind-down process. Let your friends and family know that this is a time that you only receive calls or text for emergencies. Otherwise, you may keep subjecting yourself to that oh so familiar friend’s 2am worthless text that kept you up half the night. This is also a great opportunity to soak in a warm bath adding essential oils such as Lavender and little Epsom salt to ease the aches and pains of the day what better way to promote better sleep?

2. Sleep environment- start by assessing your room it should be conducive to sleep. Yes! remove the distractions like TV, computers and other electronic devices. Adjust your thermostat to 65 deg C treat yourself to some luxurious loose sleepwear and comfortable sheets and bedding, of course, you deserve it! Remember sound sleep is going to be best achieved in a comfortable dark quiet room with few distractions.

3. Medications- If you are noticing your medication list is growing faster than the weeds in your backyard. It’s time for a review at your next Doctors visit. In our current health care system medications are often added by multiple Physicians for a variety of reasons make sure you have an accurate list of everything your taking including prescriptions, over the counter medications and supplements. Many medications are notorious for exacerbating insomnia including blood pressure, heart, thyroid, cold and allergy medications to name a few. So be sure to review those meds!

4. Health concerns- New or existing health conditions such as sleep apnea, pain, restless leg syndrome, anxiety and depression unaddressed can be keeping you up at night. Remember sometimes insomnia can be a sign of an unresolved health concern that needs your attention.

5. Herbal remedies- There are herbs that have been used almost since the beginning of time to improve sleep. Melatonin usually in a dose of 1-3mg lets the body know its time for sleep. Valerian and lemon balm are also known for their quieting effects. Be sure before starting any herbs that you check with your physician for safety and interactions with other medications you may be taking.

Insomnia is a relatively common sleep disorder affecting one-third of adults. With the quality of sleep decreasing for most of us in midlife. These sleepless nights are more than just an inconvenience but can have severe consequences such sleep-related road crashes injuries and fatalities, decreasing daily performance, increasing stress and worsening chronic illness like diabetes, obesity, depression, and cancer. No! it’s not ok to not be sleeping your sleepless nights are affecting your health and well being and need to be addressed!

Sleep deprived? Some helpful resources to help with those sleepless nights: The effects of sleep deprivation on your body,  Middle-aged sleep problems tied to cognitive decline down the line , Repaying your sleep debt

Photo: Unsplash Yuris-Alhumaydy

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Faith M. Whittier M.D.

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