Getting a good night sleep is how your body recovers from stress and activity during the day. It makes a world of difference in your energy level and performance the next day. It is also vital to having a strong immune system. Being tired can also encourage unhealthy “solutions” (such as caffeine, nicotine, sugar and carbs), just because you are trying to give your body an extra jolt to compensate for being so tired. Thus, improving sleep is vital to your recovery.
There are some things that can help your quality of sleep without taking meds. OTC sleep aids have dangerous side effects when used long term. A new study has found a definite link between the use of anticholinergic drugs (including popular non-prescription sleep aids and antihistamines such as diphenhydramine) – and increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s a link to one of many articles on the subject: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288546.php
Prescription meds are even worse and can leave you feeling fogging the next day. Side effects from Ambien include nightmares, memory loss, inability to concentrate, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Just Google side effects of Ambien and read up before you start on this path.
Natural Sleep Remedies
Melatonin is one that has helped me a lot. This is a hormone that you can get in most Health Food stores or areas where vitamins are sold. I use two different types; one that is time released, as I use to have a problem of waking up during the night and not being able to get back to sleep, and one that is immediate. You need to find the right dose that works best for you. I use 5 mg time released and 5 mg immediate. My brother takes twice that amount. My husband, when he uses it, takes a much smaller dose.
Magnesium also helps. I take a pretty high dose in the evening. It is a natural muscle relaxer and does help sleep. Take too much and it can give you the runs though. So I recommend starting at a low dose and working it up until you find the right amount for you. It helps with restless leg syndrome as well, if you have a problem with that. I do and it helps. I also stretch those leg muscles out and that helps too. Take it a couple of hours before bed to get the most benefit while sleeping.
There is another solution that may be applicable to many women with consistent sleep issues. It completely handled my sleep problems. Progesterone in capsules or caplets, which must be prescribed by a doctor, that you can take each night at bedtime. You can also use a cream, but I found that taking it orally was much better for sleep. Of course this would require proper hormone testing and a doctor’s prescription. But it is well worth the trouble if you aren’t sleeping well and usual supplements don’t help. And it is much better than OTC sleep meds.
If you are in pain, preventing you from sleeping, there are additional supplements you can take for these, covered on another page. It’s hard to sleep when you are in pain, so this is vital to get your pain levels down well before trying to sleep.
Bad Night Sleep Triggers
There are also things that can trigger a bad night’s sleep. Consuming a lot of MSG (Monosodium glutamate – a flavor enhancer that is sometimes put into food) can be one. Another is alcohol. And of course caffeine, dark chocolate or other stimulants late in the day or evening can keep you from going to sleep or sleeping restfully. Keep in mind that even decaf coffee still has some caffeine.
Other Sleep Tips
I also found it helpful to find your best sleep schedule. I do best if I go to sleep by 10 and wake up at 6. Other people do better later and are able to sleep later. I found if I stayed up later, watching tv or something, and went past that sweet spot, I had a hard time getting to sleep or a less restful sleep. So finding your sleep sweet spot can also help. If you want to sleep later in the morning past sunrise, then I recommend blackout curtains or shades to keep the room dark.
A good mattress and the right pillow are important. I’m a huge fan of organic latex. It’s a natural product from rubber trees. Latex mattresses are incredible and I use a shredded latex pillow. In addition to being a natural fiber, it is hypoallergenic and very comfy. Latex mattresses can be pricey, so if you don’t want to invest in that, then at least have a mattress that isn’t too hard but that also gives good back support. High quality cotton sheets also help.
Keeping it cool in the bedroom at night can be helpful.
Watching tv shows or reading things that get your adrenaline going can be detrimental. Watch or read something relaxing or soothing for an hour or two before bedtime.
If none of the above easy remedies help you sleep, please don’t resort to taking prescription or OTC sleeping meds. Or at least not every night. Maybe every once in a while when you are truly desperate.
There are other tips that may help. I will probably add to this later. But for now, these are the things that helped me to improve sleep the most. One way or another, getting good sleep is vital to your healing.