Turning off the brain long enough to sleep…

As a poor sleeper most of my life, a few years ago I went on a rampage researching methods to improve my ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Discovering nothing new or life changing, the frustration over the scientific research extolling the virtues of a variety of solutions for improving sleeping found me with little relief.

Some of these suggestions included:
1.  Using light as a means of resetting one’s biological clock (circadian rhythmby increasing waking light and reducing evening light.  This method, although described in brief here, increasing the production on nighttime melatonin, the miracle sleep adjusting hormone.  This means, no TV or computer before attempting to sleep.
2.  Reduce nighttime noises or wear earplugs.  
3.  Don’t exercise at night before bed. 
4.  Don’t go to bed on a full stomach, allowing two hours for food to digest before lying down.
5.  No caffeine late in the day, preferably after 2:00 PM.  Mostly done but usually have ice tea up until dinner, water after.
6.  No stimulating activities before bed. 
7.  Drinking less fluids at night, reducing necessity of getting up during the night. 
8.  Comfortable bed, blankets, pillows and bedtime attire. 
9.  No biting, noise making, annoying flying things buzzing one’s head at night.
10. No negative conversations or thoughts that instill anger, excitement or frustration before retiring for the evening. 
10.  No worrying about not sleeping which in itself can be a deterrent to a good night’s sleep. 
11.  Turning off the brain at night!

Most certainly, there are hundreds of other suggested solutions to poor sleep but these appeared to be most applicable in my world.  Trying them collectively or one by one, I found some relief but frequently awaken between 2:00 am and 4:00 am each night, struggling to fall back to sleep.  This is a common phenomenon many have described, particularly as one ages. 

For years while a working person, I awoke at 5:30 am every morning, never needing an alarm clock to get up to ready for work.  Now, as a retired person, my self imposed waking time is blissfully, hopefully at 7:00 am.

Tom, on the other hand, has less trouble sleeping, seeming to fall asleep as soon as he puts down his ebook, possibly waking a time or two during the night, usually falling back to sleep easily.  I’m less fortunate, needing a few “crutches” to make it happen:

1.  Falling asleep:  If I don’t try to fall asleep at the first indication of sleepiness, I find it difficult to do so a few hours later.  Now, when the sensation overtakes me, I succumb, putting down my smart phone ebook.

2.  Awakening during the night:  Five out of seven nights, I awaken during the night, either from a sound or a dream.  If I don’t fall back to sleep in 10 minutes, I pull my smart phone off the nightstand and read until sleepy again. 

If after 10 more minutes, I’m still not sleepy, I take a dose (two for me or three for a person over 200 pounds) of a safe homeopathic, non-addictive over the counter remedy, called Formula 303 containing Valerian and magnesium, suggested by the doctor that was instrumental in my changing my diet to low carb, sugar, starch and grain free. Within 20 minutes, I fall back to sleep. This safe product doesn’t result in drowsiness upon awakening, as do often dangerous and addictive prescription medications.

3.  Awakening too early in the morning:  Following the above in point #2, if it is before 6:00 am, usually reading for a short while will lull me back to sleep, immediately putting the book down the minute sleepiness becomes evident.

Overall, following these methods, I am able to sleep a total of seven hours each night, certainly enough for a well-rested day.  In many of the studies I’ve read, there was emphasis on the fact that seniors usually require less sleep.  Why?  Most believe it is merely due to the reduced amount of physical and mental energy utilized during waking hours.

Here is a listing of thousands of sleep research performed at various universities, such as Harvard.  It is from these resources that I spent many hours looking for answers to a lifelong problem, now seemingly under control.

Overall, the biggest issue I’ve found, is turning off my brain at night.  That’s the most challenging.  At night, we seem more vulnerable to negative thinking as our strength and determination to be positive dissipates as we become tired. 

Right now, I could be engaged in a load of negative thinking. Is it safe to fly to Africa? To live in Kenya?  Will we be able to arrange our seat assignment on the upcoming three flights to Kenya on order to sit together? How will we feel with no sleep when we fly with layovers for over 15 hours, arriving in Kenya the middle of the night?  It goes on and on. 

Turning off these thoughts at night is a commitment I’ve made to myself to ensure a good night’s sleep. So far, its working, especially when there’s no flying things buzzing my head at night!