After nights of not sleeping, I finally took myself to the sleep doctor this morning.  I had made an appointment more than a month ago.  Dr. A’s schedule was booked, booked, booked.  So many people have sleep issues these days.

My appointment was very prompt.  No long wait in the waiting room. (Guess they don’t want insomniacs to fall asleep while they wait.)

I filled out a simple sleep survey.  I answered “rarely” to most of the questions.  For example, I “rarely” fall asleep when I watch television. (My son D disagreed when I told him about my answer. “Mom, give me a break, you frequently fall asleep when you’re watching television,” said D. “I always have to wake you up when your show comes back on after a commercial.”) I “rarely” fall asleep when I lie down to take an afternoon nap. (My boyfriend L, on the other hand, frequently falls asleep when he takes weekend naps.)

After my survey, it was time to meet Dr. A.  He was very alert, likely he had had a good night’s sleep.  I bet he knows all the tricks, I thought.  I was eager to have him share his sleep secrets with me.

“When did you start having sleep problems?” asked Dr. A.

“Peri and meno, peri and meno,” that’s all I had to say plus, “shortly before my fiftieth birthday and ever after.  “I used to be a great sleeper when I was in my twenties.  I would put my head on the pillow and kaboom, I was out for the count. Not now.  Not during my life after 50. No, no, no.”

Dr. A asked a few more questions.  He wanted to know if I was depressed. “No.” He wanted to know if I had restless legs. “No.” He wanted to know if I had any extreme pain in my back or neck or other parts of my body. “No.” He wanted to know if I stopped breathing during sleep. “No sleep apnea.”

Then Dr. A said the magic words, “It’s all about sleep hygiene.  You have to take a cognitive approach.  There are no magic cures or perfect drugs.”

So what’s a 50 year old boomer girl to do?  How can I get more beauty sleep?

Want to know Dr. A’s tips?  Do ya?  Do ya?  Okay, here goes:

* “Don’t go to bed until you are really tired, even if it is late at night or early morning.” (While I always thought I should aim for an early bedtime, I was pleased to learn that it doesn’t matter if I go to bed at 11:00 p.m. or 12:00 a.m., as long as  I am tired.)

* “If you haven’t fallen asleep within 30 – 60 minutes, get out of bed and do something else. Read a book, watch television or even have a light snack.  Bed is only for sleep and sex, not lying awake at night and counting sheep.” (Ooh, ooh, ooh, Dr. A. I will no longer lie in bed for hours and hours.  Maybe I will move a big comfy chair into my bedroom and put a floor lamp nearby so I can read in a chair instead of in bed.  I can also watch television in my big comfy chair. Yes, that is exactly what I am going to do.  Soon, soon, soon.  As soon as I find a pretty blue accent chair to match my pretty blue accent wall. I’m charging my Kindle for future sleepless nights.)

* “Take Ambien if you haven’t slept in several nights.  Take it 30 minutes before you are going to bed.” (I don’t like to take Ambien too often, but I do take it occasionally when I really, really need it.)

* “Make sure to exercise.  And try wake at the same time every day.” (I do use my stationary bicycle each morning.  I do yoga and mindfulness meditation a few times a week.  Lift my weights on the weekend. I walk too. Okay, okay, I really should walk more often.  As for timely sleep, can I not sleep in on the weekend?  Oh, please. Pretty please!)

* “Stay off the computer before bedtime.” (That means no blogging before bed. Uh, oh. No. No.)

That means I have to sign off soon.  I need time away from my computer to decompress and relax before bedtime.  I may never get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night – four or five may be the best for me.  Dr. A said that’s okay.

I promised to maintain a sleep diary for two weeks and will be back to report to Dr. A in late February.

Sleeping Beauty Judi