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Healthy Aging

What's Your Sleep Strategy?

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 06/30/2011
Last Updated: 01/15/2019

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Lately, the minute my head touches the pillow at night, I'm asleep. But it's not always like this; I figure I'm just going through a lucky phase. More often, sleep is elusive, especially since passing through menopause. If you regularly have problems falling asleep, you may want to find out more about sleep disorders.

By now, I have hundreds upon hundreds of ideas in my arsenal for getting myself to drift off. Think about it this way: for each year of life, if you get an average of eight hours sleep a night, by the time you've hit 40 you've spent nearly 116,800 hours snoozing. And by the time you hit 50 that number jumps to almost 120,000 hours. So, it makes sense that with age comes a lot of practice in the art of falling off to slumber.

I've decided to play a game with myself and review some of these getting-to-sleep strategies and share them with you. I've tried everything from sipping chamomile tea to sleeping with socks on; from reciting the alphabet forward and backward to counting backward from 300 by 3s (not as simple as it sounds but very effective.) And after receiving a product called (aka a "sleep assistant"), I realized that I've never used that method before. The method, you ask?

A gentle, blue-ish light that oscillates seven ways in seven-minute cycles and acts as a "visual metronome" to which you can synchronize your breathing and invoke a relaxation response. The nice thing about the battery-operated device is that it's very small and can easily travel anywhere with you. It's totally silent; all you have to do is place it near your bed so that the light projects onto the ceiling or wall. I tried it for the first time last night—and had a good laugh when my dog, who is old and has a bad heart which causes her to pant a lot (especially at night), became quickly mesmerized by the sight of the light. Almost instantaneously, her breathing slowed.

Share your favorite remedy for falling asleep.

Comments

Sleep is something I struggle with. It is elusive to me most nights, especially after 3 a.m.
It's a racing mind that hurts my sleep. We live in the country, so I try to focus on anything I can hear in the woods, owls, whipporwill, etc. and use it as one would one of those relaxation recordings. If I cannot hear anything, then I use what I use when I meditate, which is just visualizing nothing, completely blank and forcing all thoughts from my mind.

I don't have much trouble falling asleep, but I have trouble waking up in the night and then getting back to sleep. I mentally go over everything that happened in a TV I watched that day to try to get back to sleep/

That middle-in-the-night waking can be really annoying, I know. I'd guess the tv you watched that day has to be boring enough to lull you back to sleep; hopefully you don't watch too many action movies!

I have some boring ways to TRY to fall asleep--chamomile tea and a handful of Pringles (not sure why I crave the chips with the tea); listening to a soothing hypnotic recording on my I-pod;putting on my sleep mask (my body seems to have been conditioned--sleep mask=sleep.) But if all else fails, I get up and write a blog post--which hopefully will not make my readers fall asleep.

Chamomile tea and Pringles...interesting combo, Vera. Sounds like you have a lot of strategies to choose from...

It won't win for originality (and I know it's bad to fall asleep to the TV), but my method is to put the TV on sleep timer and find a movie I've watched a million times already, something to which I already know the plot by heart. My brain can focus on the familiar dialogue instead of starting the worry cycle.

That is interesting, Casey, that this works for you. I'd imagine you'd have to block out the light from the tv, though, since that is supposed to interfere with your sleep. But focusing on familiar dialog can certainly go a long way to taking your mind off your own words in your head!

Think I've tried everything over the years, but a big glass of wine is usually a winner.

Well, this is going to sound really weird, but sometimes I curl up and pretend I'm inside an egg, like a protective bubble. And, OK ... this one sounds even weirder, but I sometimes imagine that I unscrew the top of my head and put my brain in a bowl next to the bed ... that works best when I cannot stop thinking about / worrying about something (aka monkey mind).

I understand having a cool head helps. I generally have more trouble waking up super early than falling asleep, so not too much help on this one.

Have tried many sleep inducers, both natural and, ah, synthetic. But I'm convinced sleep comes easy to those who lead a balanced life: eat well and exercise during the day and not to close to bedtime, have a handle on stress, a sane workload, and a loving circle of family and friends. But who has the balance on this right all the time?

Bring on the light!

I have had sleep issues for years, so I'd love to win a Nightwave. I've been trying different things for years and one thing that worked for awhile was getting out of bed to read a not-very-interesting book (too interesting and you get sucked in and don't want to go to sleep). Everything Your Mother Never Told You About Sex has an interesting-sounding name but it's actually somewhat clinical, good for inducing sleep!

Exercising FIRST THING in the morning really helps me sleep at night.

I usually work until I'm about ready to fall over, then watch TV for about 1.5 minutes until I lapse into a deep sleep.

Even thought I'm not religious (but very spiritual)I found out that to recite the "Our Father" a few times, calm me down and put me in the zzzzz mode!

Not sure I could use this light as I prefer to sleep in the dark and always wake up early with the sun if I sleep in a room without shades. That being said, my husband brought some Valerian tablets from Sweden the other day. I took two and boy did I sleep well! What do you think of Valerian, and why are there two types at the US health store, one extract, I believe. Which is best?

How relaxing that must be to listen to the sounds of nature, rather than the sounds of something like traffic and sirens, as you'd have in the city.

I've always found it odd that, though I'm super Type A and high energy all day, I've never had a problem falling asleep. And all my laid-back friends sit up at night trying one thing after another to nod off. All I do is hit the pillow and within minutes, asleep. But the Nightwave certainly sounds interesting.

I'm too late to win but lately with my allergies I have to take a Benedryl at night so getting to sleep has been much easier.

Great advice! I’m beginning to do most of things, and my next step is to grab me a domain/web hosting as well!

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