Until about 18 months ago, most nights I slept for about four hours; five hours when I was lucky. There was a time, more than a decade ago, that an evening dose of melatonin kept me asleep for the more traditional seven or eight hours and I felt so much better then.
But after a couple of years it stopped working.
I got by as I always had, toughing it out during the day when there were things that must be done. I was slow to twig to the fact that I now live in a state where cannabis (that's what we're supposed to call it now – I still think of it as weed or pot) is legal.
About a year-and-a-half ago, I began using a tincture of cannabis which kept me asleep all night, seven or eight hours, until it didn't anymore. Both a dispensary “budtender” and one of my physicians said that often, sleep aids of all kinds can stop working and suggested I try alternating types of cannabis. So now I use a gummy in between the tincture.
It's been working for me. Some friends have had less success. (I always use THC cannabis; CBD does nothing for me in regard to sleep.)
Insomnia is serious but common problem for old people. Even when sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, pain or certain medications are discounted, about one-third of people 65 and older don't get enough sleep according to a 2017 University of Michigan poll.
Today's post is not about medical conditions that cause sleep disorders but I want to pass on what the National Sleep Foundation says about sleep apnea:
”...untreated sleep apnea puts a person at risk for cardiovascular disease, headaches, memory loss and depression. It is a serious disorder that is easily treated.
“If you experience snoring on a regular basis and it can be heard from another room or you have been told you stop breathing or make loud or gasping noises during your sleep, these are signs that you might have sleep apnea and it should be discussed with your doctor.”
Note that phrase, “serious disorder that is easily treated.” How often does anyone tell us that? So if you suspect sleep apnea or any other medical cause of insomnia, get thee to your physician.
When there is not an underlying medical reason for sleeplessness, there are other reasons it happens. WebMD tells us, there is
”...a big difference between younger and older sleepers: the timing of rest. As adults age, advanced sleep phase syndrome sets in, causing the body's internal clock to adjust to earlier bed and wakeup times. But some seniors continue to stay up late, as they did in their younger years. Sleep deprivation is often the result.”
Every source I read tells us that it is a misconception that people need less sleep as they age. Research shows that sleep need remains constant throughout adulthood – seven or eight hours.
Assuming there is no underlying medical reason you can't sleep or can't sleep enough, what's an insomniac elder to do?
There are always the prescription sleep potions, right? Ambien, Lunesta, etc. In an excellent article about elder sleeplessness, Consumer Reports warns against them noting that one analysis found that people using these drugs
”...fell asleep only 8 to 20 minutes faster than people taking a placebo.
“Taking sleep meds may also cause dependency and increase your risk of car accidents, and more than double your risk of falls and fractures, common causes of hospitalizations and death in older adults, according to Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign.
“Because of these dangers, the American Geriatric Society includes the more potent prescription sleep drugs—eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien)—on its list of medications that adults age 65 and older should avoid.”
This can be true of some over-the-counter sleep aids too. And if you would be inclined to try cannabis, what if you don't live in a place where it is legal? There is no dearth of advice around the web. This is one of the better lists of useful techniques. From WebMD:
⏺ Get set. Wake up at the same hour every day and exercise and eat meals at set times to help get sleep back on track.
⏺ Get Exercise. Check with your doctor to see what type of activity is best for you, and then get out and do it. You might want to do it early in the day, though, so it doesn’t keep you up at night. A little sunlight each day can make a big difference too!
⏺ Get Cool. Keep your bedroom on the cool side. And turn off all those lights and electronics. Keep the TV out of the bedroom.
⏺ Get a Routine. Anything that relaxes you—a warm shower, a few moments of meditation, a good book.
⏺ Get Out of Bed. That’s right! If you are tossing and turning after about 10 or 15 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing. Just don’t turn on that TV or computer.
⏺ Get checked. Some medication or certain medical problems can interrupt sleep. If a medication is to blame, your doctor can recommend adjusting the timing or dose, or possibly switching to an alternative prescription. And if it’s a medical problem that’s stealing away your shut eye, she can address that, too.
There is another list from helpguide.org – a much longer list than above – that may be helpful.
The reason you're reading this today is that the cannabis, even with two delivery systems, has stopped working for me. Well, it's been only since Monday and maybe it is just a short-term anomaly, so I'm going to give it some more time before figuring out something new.
But in case I need it, I tracked down all this information so I'm passing it along to you.
I'm sure we would all like to hear about your own adventures in sleep – or not - too. Just remember that you may recommend NO PRESCRIPTION DRUGS nor any other treatment except in the context of what has worked or not worked for you. And no links.