I used to be able to sleep so well, but as I age I find it harder and harder to get a truly refreshing night’s sleep, even when I get seven, eight, or even nine hours.
As mentioned earlier, our bodies produce two important substances to help us achieve and maintain deep sleep: melatonin and GABA. As we age, we produce less and less of both even though we need restorative sleep as much or more in middle and older age than we did in young adulthood. The result is often a failure to spend enough time in the deeper levels of sleep, especially REM. Even if we don’t wake up in the night, we may be getting nudged out of the deeper levels of sleep, re-starting our 90 minute sleep cycles at phase one, then cycling down to level four or five before getting disrupted again by a partner moving in the bed, the sound of a motorcycle roaring past our house, or an ache in our hip or shoulder, starting the cycle over again at phase one. Instead of spending progressively more time in REM during each successive sleep cycle, we may be spending less time and getting less deep restorative sleep.
Sensory deprivation (ear plugs and eye shades) are a good place to start. Marissa can show you the ones we like best, just ask her at the front desk. There are also medicines which work to induce sleep, such as Ambien (a benzodiazepine) and Lunesta (a non-benzodiazepine), both part of the class of drugs known as sedative/hypnotics. These drugs act to stimulate GABA receptors and have been shown to be clinically effective for insomnia. However, both drugs have been reported to have significant side effects and can become habit forming. Many patients who use these drugs regularly suffer fatigue and diminished mental concentration during the day. By contrast, we have had great success with a natural remedy: Best-Rest Formula, by Pure Encapsulations. Best-Rest includes melatonin and GABA in very low doses, along with valerian, chamomile, and other natural extracts. Best-Rest has not been shown to be habit forming or to cause rebound insomnia when coming off its use. The side effects have been minimal in comparison to sedative/hypnotic prescription medicines. I use Best-Rest and earplugs whenever I go through periods of difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
Tip: The best way to eliminate sleep disturbance is to remove all obstacles to restorative sleep. If your mattress or pillow are not comfortable then it is time to consider changing them (remember that we spend one third of our lives pressed against our pillows and mattresses). If light or noise are a problem, consider sensory deprivation methods (ear plugs, eye shades). If you have post-nasal drip, consider drying agents or nasal lavage. As we age, natural sleep aids such as Best-Rest Formula by Pure Encapsulations can supplement us with the GABA and melatonin we lose as we age.