Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways to Reduce Insomnia

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This week’s list was prompted by a new study showing that sleep loss in middle age is associated with high blood pressure. As a chronic insomniac, I figure this study just gives me one more reason to stay up at night worrying. But it also furnishes me with an excuse to pontificate about some of the more popular sleep aides out there:

1. Get a Mouthguard. If – like so many of us – you find that your night-time stress moves directly into your jaw, you might consider asking your dentist for a mouthguard. Yes, it may make you feel like Evander Holyfield. And, yes, as an old dentist of mine once said: “It ain’t exactly an aphrodesiac.” But if you’ve ever lain next to someone who grinds their teeth or – worse – woken up with a piercing pain in your own jaw, a mouthguard might be just the trick. (Insider tip: figure out if you are a clencher or a grinder. It may affect the design of your mouthguard.)

2. Wear an Eye Patch. These can be helpful for shutting out light that aggravates insomnia. But be sure to replace them frequently. Most eye patches use velcro to accommodate different head sizes. Over time, you may find that  most of your hair stays on the velcro rather than on your head. And some of us don’t have a lot to spare.

3. Employ a Noise Machine. Some people are big fans of background noise. You can listen to the soothing sounds of an ocean…birds chirping…or just plain “white noise.” But again, choose carefully. For the last several years, my husband and I have been using a portable air conditioner to cool our bedroom, which doesn’t have a window (we have a skylight instead). But said machine sputters, heaves and otherwise exerts itself throughout the night like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on steroids. If, like me, you’re prone to dreams about being chased, this doesn’t exactly lend itself to relaxation.

4. Take Ambien. Somewhat further up the food chain, you may need to resort to medication. I have no problem with this, although know that Ambien is often less effective when taken sequentially, rather than once in awhile. My own favorite Ambien story was the time I ran out of my own (5mg) pills and borrowed a friend’s 10mg pill. As the medication began to take effect and I got woozy, I freaked out and called 911. (Yes, you’re seeing a pattern here.) When the operator asked me how much I’d taken and I told her “10 mg,” she responded: “Call me when you’ve taken 100.” You know it’s bad when even the 911 folks are dissing you.

5. Move to France. Apparently, people in France sleep more than in any other industrialized country. Heavens knows why. Maybe it’s all that red wine.

Bonne nuit!

Image: B’s Mouthguard for Football by Axlotl via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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10 Responses to Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways to Reduce Insomnia

  1. Katie says:

    If I was forced to move to a desert island and could only take one thing … it would be my mouth guard.

  2. Matt Boylan says:

    Hello, RealDelia:

    I am a 20 year insomniac. And there are further moves up and down the foodchain that can help with insomnia. Avoid bedrooms with eastern exposures in the morning (classic.) When you rent an apartment, make very sure (and don’t take the landlord or realtor’s word for it) that there are no night workers (who are often up and noisy all night long on weekdays or dogs – they all bark when the owner’s away.) Consider the much damned benzodiazepam. Ambien and Sonata currently have a lock on the market and many doctors in New York are afraid to prescribe anything else for fear of liability. But some psychiatrists and gp’s will prescribe benzo’s if you’re like me and feel Ambien is as useful as popcorn. Just be sure you don’t start taking more and more of them (addictive spiral) and don’t have reasons to fear becoming addicted. And many insomniacs do have such reasons – be warned! On the other hand, I have taken ativan 2mg at night 365 days for 20 years and it did not make me take any extra at night or in the daytime. If you can afford it (and it’s very expensive) consider double or even triple paning your windows and having sound engineers or just workmen test and/or lower your ceilings or wherever the sound eminates from. And, of course, don’t have children under 12. And the most basic rules of all: bed for sex and sleeping only. Get up at the same time every day if at all possible.
    Consider significant additional exercise during daytime and serious meditation at night. And for that matter, it may be time to consider a new job – or whatever else the thorn in the side is that’s causing the insomnia.

  3. Era says:

    Found your blog from Gretchen’s Happiness Digest. The mouth guard is a great idea. I think I’m a clencher sometimes. Nice to meet you.

  4. Earplugs + white noise = decent sleep:)
    Also if you can avoid worrying about the sleep you aren’t getting and just lay there, eyes closed and think pleasant things, it helps.

  5. […] think it is only for computer nerds, there’s something for everyone on Lifehacker. Given my sleep issues, I was particularly drawn to this post on how to improve your sleep […]

  6. […] go away on its own. Rather, it will just get worse. In the case of my teeth, it turns out that I wasn’t just clenching – as I’d long believed – but grinding. The dentist could actually show me where […]

  7. […] go away on its own. Rather, it will just get worse. In the case of my teeth, it turns out that I wasn’t just clenching – as I’d long believed – but grinding. The dentist could actually show me where […]

  8. […] go away on its own. Rather, it will just get worse. In the case of my teeth, it turns out that I wasn't just clenching, as I'd long believed, but grinding. The dentist could actually show me where I'd worn down my […]

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