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Dazed & Confused

Not that 90’s film about 70’s high schoolers that put Austin, TX on the map, has an amazing soundtrack, and introduces us to Matthew McConaughey for the first time.

The other “dazed and confused”, as in you just woke up, put you feel like you didn’t sleep at all. Or that addled feeling you have in the middle of the afternoon, that sends you searching for caffeine, chocolate, or both, in an attempt to focus. Just feeling punchy, foggy, spacey, or zonked out can leave us wondering if we will ever get good night’s sleep again, sleep through the night, or feel rested in the morning.

This is what often happens when we reach midlife and beyond. For various reasons, our sleep is not sound, and we often have difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep. Sleep deprivation, in which we are not getting enough sleep or we are sleeping intermittently can leave us feeling cranky, irritable and downright hostile. It can also interfere with our performance at work, at school and while driving, and can be a cause of tragic accidents.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention), 1 in 3 adults report they are not getting enough sleep and 40% report falling asleep during the day, without meaning to, just because they are lacking sleep. And this can leave us with a host of physical and mental problems.

We need sleep just like we need nutritious food, and good fitness habits to support our overall wellbeing.

So why is it that so many people are sleep deprived?

Your internal “body clock” sets the rhythm of your sleep schedule. Unfortunately, hormones can be the culprit in why we are not able to sleep well. As we get closer to the evening, and the light diminishes, the hormone melatonin kicks in to make you feel sleepy. In the morning, when the sun is coming up, cortisol increases and causes us to wake.

When we have artificial light on for too long into the evening, especially emanating from our TV, tablets and phones, we are not generating enough melatonin to settle in and get sleepy. That’s why it is important to turn off digital devices earlier in the evening, and give the melatonin some space. Read a book, with lighting from a bulb that generates a full-spectrum light to support the natural circadian rhythm and help you ready yourself for sleep.

Other methods we can use to help us get into “sleep mode” are to eat earlier, with no additional snacking at least two hours before bed. We need to give ourselves time to digest, so that we can rest.

We can also cool down our room. Sometimes a warmer room disrupts our sleep so open a window and let some cooler, fresher air in.

For women in menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also help. HRT can help us sleep better by providing the necessary estrogen progesterone mix we need to help us sleep and maintain bladder control. Lower estrogen can cause a weakening of the bladder and you can experience “nocturia” where you wake up in the middle of the night several times with an urge to pee.

Another way to get a good night’s sleep is to not drink alcoholic beverages before bed. You never get a sound sleep with all of its regenerative properties, when you drink at night. Basically you are sleep deprived the next day, and will need to make up this deficit as some point. Sometimes that is the weekend, when you sleep in or maybe a mid-day nap. Neither is good, long-term.

Make sure your sleeping environment is conducive to sleep. Is your room dark, cool and inviting? Are your sheets and pillowcases changed weekly? And speaking of pillows, does yours support your head and neck? I recently bought some Temper-pedic pillows and that was the best thing I have done for my sleep lately.

Find something that works for you. Here is the Bedroom Audit for you with more tips on getting a good night’s sleep.

Sleeping well is part of living well and is indicative of good health and well-being. Overall, we want to settle down our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) in the evening, not rev it up.

Here is one of my favorite recipes to settle down before bed.

Sweet Sleep
Download PDF • 132KB

As we continue to celebrate Healthy Ageing Month, please take a moment to consider your habits and how you can take small actions that will pay huge dividends over the long term for your health. And make getting high quality, restful sleep a priority.

Sweet dreams!


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