Friday, January 13, 2012

The lost art of sleeping

I used to sleep. Even after I had kids, I slept most of the night through, waking maybe once. My husband once asked me how much sleep I needed a night, and I said "until 8". And I slept, peacefully, until 8:00, every morning. And woe to those who woke me up!

And then... 40 happened. I know from a lot of my post-40 friends that this isn't unique to me. Probably the single biggest aging complaint I've seen is about sleeping. We just can't do it! Sometimes I can't fall asleep because, even though I couldn't keep my eyes open 10 minutes earlier, the minute I turn off the light my mind starts racing. Sometimes I fall asleep in minutes, but wake up in the middle of the night with my mind racing. Here lately, I am sleeping just fine, thank you very much, when I get a hot flash. Or ten. (And it's not just women... My husband wakes up at 3:45 and can't go back to sleep for an hour or two most nights.)

I don't know about you, but I get darned cranky when I have a few nights in a row with broken sleep. I really need 8 1/2  to 9 hours a night, every night, to have energy and a clear mind (well, take that with a grain of salt...). When I'm up 2 or 3 - or, like last night, 7 or 8 - times a night and get no real deep sleep, I'm less than a joy to be around. And then I become like a senior citizen, moping around telling everyone about my bad night's sleep, my insomnia, my *stupid* hot flashes. I'm sure that's scintillating conversation for my 15 year old son...

Remember when you were young and could sleep, anywhere?

Over the years I've tried everything. Ambien will definitely knock you out, but I only get about 5-6 hours sleep with it, and then I go back to the broken pattern, and I don't like that groggy feeling, so my experiment with that didn't last long. Benadryl or Nyquil will work when you're desperate, but who wants to take medicine you don't actually need, just to sleep? (OK, me, sometimes... but not as a general rule!) Melatonin works when I can't GO to sleep, but doesn't do much for the waking in the middle of the night. The only thing I've found that works like a charm, and only for 1 night, is jet lag. Seriously. If you stay awake for 47 hours, you get one amazing night of sleep!

This is my son with jet lag... Oh to be young!

What about you? Have you found anything that works, or are all of us over-40s walking around like zombies? Does it get better? I know my 98 year old grandmother sleeps like the proverbial log... Do we have to wait for our 80s for that to happen?!

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