The Sleep Puzzle

For some people, they lay down, fall asleep, and then wake up in the morning.

Yeah, not so much for me.

I’ve been recently thinking about good sleep as a puzzle, and that I’m only just now finding all the pieces that I need in order for me to achieve a decent night’s sleep. I’ve written about some of these pieces before. I’m just trying to gather them all together in a single place.

Ketosis
Being in ketosis really helps in terms of my sleep. The way I look at it is that it calms everything down so that I can sleep. It also helps me stay asleep, because my body isn’t doing crazy sugar highs and crashes. Ketosis is the base layer on which I build all the rest of the sleep puzzle. Without ketosis, none of the rest of it helps.

HRT – specifically, progesterone
I am on a couple of peri/menopause forums. One of the problems with aging hormones is that sometimes they play silly buggars with your system. I still remember waking up with my heart pounding one night. I hadn’t had a nightmare or anything. My body had just decided to helpfully dump a bunch of adrenaline into my system, for no reason.

Hormone-related insomnia is a thing. And it’s a hard thing. The HRT (hormone replacement therapy) really helps me in terms of being able to sleep. The progesterone mellows me out. I can always tell when I need it because I start getting really obsessive without it. (One of the things I’ve learned on the forums is that I’m not the only one with these symptoms! OMG has that made a difference to me.)

Light
I’m sensitive to light. I need my bedroom to be dark. It’s spring here in WA state, and the sun is rising noticeably earlier. I’m waking up earlier because it’s so bright and I can only get the bedrooms so dark. I will start waking up around 4 AM and putting on an eye mask to help me sleep the rest of the night until fall.

On the other hand, I am NOT sensitive to light in terms of screens. I can be playing games on my phone in my bed before I go to sleep and still fall right asleep and get great sleep. Limiting my screen time in the evenings doesn’t do a thing for me.

Noise
I wish I’d figured this out earlier. I’ve always known that noise is a stimulant for me. I have air purifiers running in the tiny house 24/7. Fan noise is NOT white noise for me. I’ve learned to turn those purifiers down to night-time levels at least an hour before I go to sleep.

When I do that, by the time I reach my bed, my heart rate is down. Or if it isn’t (because I just climbed the stairs) my heart rate goes down quickly, because I haven’t had that stimulation of the noise in the background. It’s made a huge difference for how fast I’ll fall asleep.

Time
I HATE to admit this, but my body has a certain rhythm, and it really wants for me to be in bed by 9:30. Yes, it’s that specific. 10:00 is too late. 9:00 is too early.

If I get to bed right around 9:30 (with a ten minute window on either side) I tend to get the best sleep.

Deep sleep occurs at the start of your sleep cycle. If I’m in bed by about 9:30, I tend to have the longest deep sleep cycles. And for me, deep sleep is really where it’s at. 6 hours of sleep, but 2 hours of that is deep sleep, and I’ll have energy all day. 9 hours of sleep but less than an hour of deep sleep, and I’m dragging by late afternoon.

Magnesium
I have tried (and tried, and tried) different types of oral magnesium. I always have to take a really small amount or it works as a laxative. My system just doesn’t like a lot of magnesium. I’ve had it tested, and I’m on the really low end. However, taking more just doesn’t work.

Except that now I’m doing the magnesium cream, and that appears to be doing a wonderful job. It makes a huge difference in terms of the deep sleep. Everything else can be right, and I’ll still only get about an hour of deep sleep.

I’ve learned that I need to change application sites for the magnesium. Put it on my legs one night. Belly the next night. Arms and lower back the third night. Then rotate back. Always putting it on a single location make the cream ineffective.

Temperature
This seems too variable, honestly. A lot of it’s driven by my hormones. I prefer to be cool when I sleep, but I’ll also sleep great too warm. My feet have to be warm before I can fall asleep, but once I’m there, I’ll sleep through a lot of temperature variation.

Exercise
I remember being SO disappointed that even though I was exercising a lot I wasn’t sleeping well. (I was going to one of those “booty camps” – getting up at 5 AM and going out to exercise.)

I think, for me, it’s a loose correlation. In general, getting more sleep means I’ll sleep better. However, it isn’t a guarantee. I can exhaust myself physically during a day and still not be able to sleep at night, not unless the other things are all inline. Similarly, not exercising a lot doesn’t appear to have much impact on my sleep. Like the last couple of days since I had my knee worked on. (Let’s just say ouch and leave it at that, okay?) I was walking up to 6000 steps per day, but right now, that isn’t possible. I know moving more helps with the writing and everything else. More steps means I’m further in ketosis.

PJs
I sleep in a T-shirt and loose pants when it’s cool enough. When it gets really warm, I won’t sleep in anything at all. For me, it appears that I need either one or the other – full PJs or nothing at all. Trying to sleep just in a T-shirt means I’ll be awake all night with my legs cold, even if I pull up extra blankets.

I think those are all the things that I’ve figured out in terms of my sleep puzzle. I may add more later.

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