I just want a decent night’s sleep.  For more than a night or two in a row.  Am I right, people?  I treasure my rest and need it to keep my EVER RUNNING mind going during the day.  People laugh at my bed because it’s elevated beyond normal height and does, in fact, look like “A Princess and the Pea.”

Susanne Houghton Illustration. How cute is this?

So how did a girl who slept like 11 hours a night come to struggle with sleep and how does she find slumberous nirvana in midlife?

The Hormones and Lack of Sleep

Ladies, I am NOT going to pretend to be a doctor.  I can only share my personal journey and maybe prompt someone to connect with their physicians and see what’s up.  But essentially, we all know the drill:  night sweats, insomnia, maybe some of you are even blessed with the AWESOME anxiety that visits in the wee hours to make you even happier to be awake.  Any of this familiar? Let’s not forget that the end result of this is chronic fatigue during the day.

soooo tired. need a nap. Photo by Alex Boyd

Aside from adjusting some things hormonally (again, please see your physician) I’ve adopted some nutritional habits to help ease the burden.  I continue to look into this and plan some more information for you all when I have it. For now, I will share that I take 5-10mg Melatonin each night.  Melatonin is a hormone that our own bodies produce which helps our brains know it’s time to sleep.  What is most important to know about Melatonin is that you MUST take it when it is dark out.  It can disrupt natural sleep patterns otherwise.

I also take 500mg Magnesium (this amount was recommended by my doctor).  Magnesium aids in digestion, helps soothe sore muscles, relieves anxiety and lots more.  Take a look HERE  Magnesium has been a super companion with the Melatonin because one helps me fall asleep, and the other keeps me asleep it seems.

This particular recommendation came from a doctor who was very concerned that I was taking Benadryl each night to sleep.  Total desperation.  I cannot emphasize enough that this is a BAD idea.  Benadryl has been linked to Alzheimer’s so please, just DON’T.

Essential Oils and Gratitude 

Next up, making it all smell pretty.  Ok it’s way more than that, but what a pleasant side effect!  Anyway, essential oils have been used for centuries and are really becoming a popular home remedy for many issues–stress and insomnia included.  Even HuffPost is talking about essential oils in the pursuit of a decent night’s sleep.

I started learning about essential oils about 18 months ago and really sense a difference when I’m using them.  As mentioned earlier, the scents are also so pleasant that they improve my mood!  I like to use my homemade body butter with Lavender on my hands and some pulse points before bed.  I also use a diffuser with either Lavender or the Young Living “Stress Away” oil blend (it’s a combo of vanilla and lime).

With this pleasant and relaxing smell, I like to meditate for a few minutes before I nod off.  Typically I make a mental list of my favorite people, the blessings of the day, things for which I’m grateful.  Lots of wellness gurus talk about doing this, but I’ve LITERALLY done this since I was a child, totally on my own (In fact, it was a ritual list and I still remember it).  Starting and ending the day with gratitude is one of the very best things you can do.

The Sound of Silence

Sorry if this all sounds whiney, but I also have tinnitus.  For the uninitiated, this means I’ve had a high-pitched ringing in my ears since I was about 13.  Trying to sleep in complete silence is completely impossible, so I have either white noise going, or I play an album called Weightless by Marconi Union. This music was scientifically proven to be the most relaxing music EVER.  Take a look:

Sometimes our brains need something external to focus on–sounds, meditations, white noise–to cancel out the running to-do lists we create as we are trying to sleep.  For me, the external noise is a wonderful solution.

Waking in the Middle of the Night

This one is SOOOO rough.  Typically falling asleep isn’t all that hard, it’s the staying asleep.  Those nasty hormones will kick in around 2:00am and make me feel like I’ve just run from the devil himself, drenched in sweat with a racing heart!  I don’t have great answers for this one, but here are some things that MAY help with your body temperature and what to do when it happens.

These Latuza Bamboo pajamas come in lots of colors and are soooo comfortable. You can order by clicking the photo!

I LOVE Bamboo pajamas.  Since I’m still at a point where the sweats aren’t every night, I can usually predict when it may be an issue and choose what I wear to sleep in.  I find bamboo fabric to be cooler and wick some of that joy off my skin if it happens, keeping my overall body temps down.

Another trick I’ve learned is to do math.  I read somewhere that counting backwards by 3’s can tax the brain back to sleep.  Personally, I like to start with a high and obscure number (like 2,841).  One time, just starting at 100 and hit zero without sleeping and that was no bueno.  I have a good success rate with this process.

LEAVE YOUR BED!  I’m not saying get up and start cleaning, but more often than not, a change of location will do the trick.  I will move to our long, leather sofa (sooo nice and cool) in fresh pajamas (haha) and find a show or movie I have seen 1000 times.  My thought here is that I can close my eyes and know what’s happening on the TV with no effort.  I’m typically back to sleep within about ten minutes!

I would LOVE to hear from you all if you have any tricks that really work.