4.7.2016 | 22:50
We hear a lot about the importance of sleep and what’s considered good sleep hygiene, so I’m not going to belabor that.
No, what I want to talk about today is some of my sleep experience in recent years.
About 10 years ago, perimenopause hit me. Hard. It had been building up for quite some time, but then all of sudden I experienced an impressive menstrual irregularity. Followed quickly by hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disturbances.
Admittedly, it was the mood swings that had me the most concerned. But I wasn’t prepared for how hard the sleep thing would hit me.
Night sweats – incredible! I went from regular sleepwear to … a lot less.
Waking up around 2 or 3 am, and awake for a good couple of hours, before (sometimes) falling back asleep for an hour or two.
Frustration mounted. (Did I mention mood swings?)
Then Diane suggested I put the time to good use – by going out and walking around the neighborhood. So I did – 5 am or 5:30 am walks. I took a flashlight and walking a stick. The light was so the rare driver could see me, the stick for protection. I never needed the latter, and as expected there were very few cars out.
That worked well for a number of months, until cold mornings arrived.
It was during this time I started hearing this and that about sleep hygiene – routine bedtime hours, use the bedroom only for sleeping, relaxation/meditation, dark room, etc.
I tried every suggestion I found, and very little worked. The things that did, didn’t work consistently, or all that well.
In the meantime, I kept hearing about how important sleep is and stressing about how much I wasn’t getting. Bad cycle, but hard for me to pull out of it.
Dark room – next to impossible to achieve with a lot of ambient light around outside the home. Room darkening curtains weren’t feasible, and I don’t like them.
Cool the room. At one point we rented a place where one of the bedrooms was frigid on winter nights. Diane had been using that room, and after several sleepless nights of her own, Diane begged to swap. Half the month, I needed pajamas for the first time in a few years. The other half? Nope. Still waking up hot as blazes in the middle of the night.
Keep the pets out of the room. Has anyone tried that? If it isn’t one cat howling to be let inside the room, it’s another one who wants to be on whichever side of the door he or she isn’t.
Then I tried an eye mask, instead of the curtains. Made some progress, though some nights the mask got really warm on my face and I’d end up removing it. But still, by this point, my sleep had consistently improved. Some.
One night, some months ago, I experienced some unpleasant GI symptoms and if I was going to get any more sleep, I was going to need to be on my back to be comfortable. But that had its own challenges, because I was already feeling nauseous. At the time, I wasn’t using a pillow at all for sleep. So I went to the sofa and grabbed one of the accent pillows.
I got a little bit more sleep that night.
The surprise came the following night. Not sure if I’d have any more symptoms, I folded up one of the afghans that was typically on the bed to have it available for my head to rest on and I used it. Better sleep. The same thing happened the next night.
So for me, using a pillow again made the most consistent improvement in my sleep! Go, figure.
I thought the story ended there, and I’ve been holding this post as a possibility for a while.
But, I got another surprise less than a week ago. On the advice of a colleague, Steph Jackson, I started taking a bifidum-only probiotic supplement at bedtime. The first night I had the soundest sleep I’d had in several weeks. Not necessarily MORE sleep, but BETTER sleep.
It happened again the next night.
It’s been happening every night except one, and that’s even with thunderstorms disrupting sleep during the night.
Yeah, what was that about keeping the bedroom quiet?