"Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep," a researcher reports. These findings aren't new. But often people read them and say, "Well, I've tried everything but deep sleep passes me by." Can that be true? Less often than you might think.
The kicker, which is also not new, is that taking sleeping pills like Ambien, narcotics, muscle relaxants and/or benzos like Valium to sleep, doesn't do the job that undrugged sleep does. Also note, it's very unwise to mix and match these, even more so with alcohol or street drugs. Regular people, not just celebrities, die from doing that.
So how do you get "undrugged sleep?" Here are a few options to consider.
- With motor and/or sensory issues, foam blocks to cushion elbows, pressure boots, a foam belt to align the hips and a bed that allows for un-flat sleeping can all increase comfort dramatically.
- People with CNS disorders often require daily meds to keep musculoskeletal and neuropathic pain under control, but these can be thoughtfully titrated and combined to ensure minimal side effects over time. It's worth the time to find a health professional who can support that.
- Reduce light and noise. Get better curtains or blinds. Train kids and pets that the bedroom is off-limits, except in emergencies. If you find a way to teach your pets how to limit visits to emergencies, patent it immediately. Put devices to sleep.
- Tune out early -- no looking at screens up to the bitter end. Play yourself to sleep with tunes that end automatically.
- Regulate temperature, air flow and humidity. A fan and/or humidifier can be a friend. If you get cold but don't want to breathe dry air, try a low-voltage heated mattress pad that goes on top or even under the mattress rather than crank up the furnace. Gel toppers to make a cooler pillow, microfiber blankets that get less soggy than cotton and blanket lifters are other options.
- Set the alarm to allow plenty of time to get up. It sounds paradoxical, but stress over "will I sleep through the alarm" can keep you up. If you allow for a few minutes of zoning out after the alarm, you won't be as stressed about that.
- Consider a wearable or app that can track your sleep, either to wake you up more gently, show you how well you slept and/or clue you in to snoring or choking that might prompt a doctor's visit.
If you saw a pill that did what a good night's sleep did, you'd buy it in a heartbeat. And the better your night, the fewer pills you may need when you wake up!