“Did you have a good night’s sleep?
What does that even mean anymore?”
Wise women know how to deal with sleep. We have to. Most of us don’t sleep through the night and that is a fact. 67% of adults aged 55 to 85 believe they have sleep problems according to a Gallup Poll.
So, perhaps we need to wake up to the reality that the concept of a “good night’s sleep” has a new meaning after 50.
We know we need at least 6 hours of sleep and 7 or 8 hours is ideal but, very few of us get enough hours of sleep without interruption.
Perhaps we need to embrace a new normal. After all, why fail at something that’s impossible? Maybe a good night’s sleep is a few hours at the start and a strong finish, with a productive middle of the night interlude like a good sonata consisting of 3 to 4 movements.
At mid-life we’ve been at this sleep game for half a century. But most of us experience a shift in our sleep patterns in menopause and beyond.
The reality of what constitutes a good night’s sleep requires a flexible definition. Even if our Fit Bit says we got enough sleep, we may not feel truly rested. We don’t need anyone or thing to tell us when we’ve slept well.
Good sleep patterns require discipline and many of us have routines that work well at times but inevitably life gets in the way. We’ve got worries, we don’t always eat right, we’ve got raging hormones, and when we travel sleep can be rough. But, should we be lucky enough to get into a good sleep stride – Day Light Savings throws the curve ball that disrupts our groove.
Losing an hour of sleep to gain more day light feels well worth it but leaves us bleary eyed. The middle of the night awake time cannot be eased by recouping that lost hour…because, we’re not teenagers and sleeping late for most of us is so 4 decades ago.
I polled a few friends about how they knit together 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. The answer is…everyone’s trying out new strategies. What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. So I collected a menu of sleep solutions. This list may be helpful if you’re feeling stuck and wide-eyed at 3 am and need some new strategies. Feel free to pick one or any off the menu and please add your sleep strategy below as we might like yours better.
A menu of sleep strategies to help us get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
- Aperitif: A Nip of Whiskey — a smidge of cognac, a belt of Grand Marnier or my favorite — a slug of Yellow Spot Irish whiskey. These soothing warm nightcaps coat the throat and the brain with a warm flush and take the edge off the day.
- Main course: Carbo Loading. Go ahead and enjoy that pasta. Although carbs make us sleepy during the day, going to bed hungry is not a a good recipe for sleep. Insulin levels affect how well we sleep so carbohydrate rich food can improve our circadian rhythms. After a piece of toast shmeared with peanut butter or jam and a cup of herbal tea, I love Sleepy time pomegranate…the coziness of this food ritual works magically. Tuck in, switch off the light and welcome in the carbo crash.
- Invited Guest: Head space. When your mind starts running this is the best anxiety antidote on the planet. I swear by this APP. I use it on planes, in the morning before I get out of bed…but also when my thoughts are racing and I can’t sleep. When I hear Andy Puddicomb’s voice, a former Tibetan Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, that’s my cue to exhale and relax.
- Ambience: A cool room and fresh air is essential for sleep. Circulating air, preferably a ceiling fan on low is the ultimate sleep device. Still air in a warm room is the worst for sleeping. I can’t sleep at all unless there is some kind of air circulation and air conditioning is not a substitute. A bed side fan works like magic. This $20 investment is worth it…love this Vornado travel fan.
- Lively Dialogue: My Kindle. I get most of my reading done at 3 am on my Kindle. My son bought me the fancy Kindle Voyage and the light is perfect, plus it has wifi. I know I’m not supposed to use a “device” in the middle of the night but it works.
- Dessert: A Little Romance: Sex helps you sleep. It’s scientific! “Sex boosts estrogen levels, enhancing your REM stage and giving you deeper slumber.” Spooning, breathing in sync, and if you’re lucky a middle of the night visit with your bedmate is not to be dismissed as the ultimate sleep aid.
- After party:Drugs, drugs and more drugs. There’s plenty of them —-OTC or scripts. Buyer beware. I’m not a fan, but if you’re desperate there’s plenty to choose from.