I can’t sleep. Can anyone offer some help?


My ability to sleep is pathetic, but something I’ve just grown accustomed to.

I use a Sleep App to determine actual times (Pillow Automatic - Apple watch app). I average less than 5 hrs sleep / night, even though I’m usually in bed for a total of 8 hrs. Last night was more or less typical: 56% sleep quality, 31% light sleep, 32% awake, 31% deep sleep and only 6% REM sleep.

Healthy adults should be spending 20-25% of total sleep in REM.

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I find the only way to sleep is through physical exhaustion, and like you said your heading toward mental exhaustion anyway. Hard work be it natural hard work (construction, manual labor etc) or gym work is the only way I have good natural sleep. Also like you I have never slept well either. Obviously one cant rely on physical exhaustion every day, but if combined with intermittent use of ambien (on off days), you could get something akin to a normal aleep pattern, or at least something much better than currently.

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That seems a reasonable outlook and approach.

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I too would recommend a sleep study , then talking with a specialist may give you some new insight into your individual circumstances. I sometimes have issues waking up at night.Less so if I am active. Which I make a point to do physical activity. Good luck.Nancy 50


Talk to @Jen about her CPAP machine


I agree about physical exertion being very good. I am 68 and ride 10 miles almost everyday on a exercise bike. It takes me an hr. Maybe I am fooling myself into thinking that is enough.


I actually slept well last night. I went to bed about 10:30 and got to sleep by 11:00. Slept fine until 3:00. I was wide awake so I sprayed some more melatonin and soon was asleep. I slept until 7:15. That was a great night for me. I normally don’t use melatonin in the night, but it worked for me. Who knows if it will work again. Melatonin spray works much better for me than the pill form.

I hope that your walk in the sun helps!!

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I don’t have sleep apnea although my husband and son do, so I definitely know the signs.


The book talks quite a bit about melatonin. I don’t have it in front of me to reference, but from what I recall, melatonin tells your body to get ready to sleep, but it in and of itself does not do anything to generate nor maintain sleep. It’s like a bell ringing saying it’s time for dinner - people still need to do other things to physically get to the table and eat. The bell just tells them it’s time to come in. Melatonin (from my understanding) is much the same as the bell. It tells your body it’s time to start getting ready to sleep - but there are a bunch of other biological processes that have to happen to generate and maintain that sleep.

I was also surprised to read that the “two sleeps” idea that has been circulating online was not much more than a fad during a particular period in Europe. According to the author, there is no biological evidence that humans were designed to wake up for a few hours in the middle of the night, and there are no records of this behaviour outside of a few mentions in some European writings. (I may not have the details of this exactly right, but it’s discussed in the book.)


I will consider a sleep study. Almost daily I ride 10 miles with resistance on an exercise bike. It take an hr. Shouldn’t that be enough for a 68 yr old woman?


The CPAP has been great for me, but also a lot of work. and I have been devoting a lot of effort to my sleep hygiene in general lately. A CPAP machine isn’t going to help someone who doesn’t have sleep apnea, though. And even for people who DO have sleep apnea, my understanding is that something like 50-60% of CPAP users stop using it because it’s hard to get used to sleeping with all that gear. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution to sleep issues.


I think a full sleep study can be useful even if you don’t have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is just one of many sleep disorders (and I’d argue it’s not really a sleep disorder). If the sleep study shows you can’t sleep, it will hopefully put you in touch with professionals who specialize in helping people sleep better.

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Jen, I sprayed melatonin in my mouth before bed last night and again when I woke up about 3:00. It really seemed to help me get back to sleep. I am going to keep trying that but who know if that experience will be replicated.

Interesting about the two sleeps. Glad that you had at least heard of it.


My husband reminded me that his last sleep study was done at home. That I could handle.


The home sleep studies have improved a lot in recent years. I think they do not gather quite as detailed information as the hospital sleep studies. I had two home sleep studies separated by three or four years, and the data gathered by each was hugely different. The most recent one was able to tell me my general stages of sleep (awake, non-REM, REM), while the prior ones couldn’t do this. I am not sure whether the at home studies are designed primarily to diagnose sleep apnea, though. I am not sure if they can detect other issues as accurately.

I also wear a Fitbit which tracks my sleep, including my sleep stages. I’ve been using this a lot to try to better my sleep. According to research done in 2017, the data collected by the latest Fitbit devices (which use heart rate and movement data to determine awake, light, deep, and REM sleep) are pretty darn accurate for a consumer device.

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Jen, my son uses his machine, but my husband who has borderline sleep apnea ordered a device for his mouth and his nose and those work well for him. It does make him look ridiculously funny, but exeryone needs a good laugh at bedtime.


So sorry to hear this Jim. It seems that you have enough to deal with already.

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This is true. Recent research shows that from way back – and across cultures – people would sleep for a few hours, then wake up, talk, pray, do chores, whatever, even visit neighbours, then have their “second sleep.” This lasted into the early twentieth century and was considered natural and normal. Then for various reasons we became convinced we needed eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. One theory is that it was a marketing strategy by mattress companies. Ironically, because of this belief, we become anxious when we awake, which only compounds the problem of getting back to sleep. Both my grandmothers slept less as they aged. When they woke in the night, they’d read, watch TV, write letters or knit, then go back to sleep when they were ready.


If you suspect you’re not fitting this “natural” pattern, and it’s impacting your health, I second undergoing a sleep study to determine underlying causes. Mindfulness exercises have been shown to be useful for muting middle-of-the-night worries. There are probably basic how-to videos on YouTube.

This is my experience. It helps me fall asleep quickly, but a few hours later, bang, I’m awake. I use it only for rejigging my system when I have jet-lag.


Thanks Marilyn -

I’ve tried all the usual remedies (Halcion, Ativan) but I disliked the drug-hangover they left me with so I discontinued.

Perhaps now is as good a time as any to consider THC or CBD’s, as it’s now fully legal in Canada (like the USA we’ve also had it available for years for medical reasons but I don’t like taking more drugs unless absolutely needed).

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I’ve had my share of issues with drug. I had a really, really crappy endo for years (well, he was one of two of the worst) that prescribed Prozac supposedly to relax me due to anxiety about my first major surgery, within a year or two of it hitting the market. After a couple of days I began feeling indescribably strange (I know, I know, I’m already strange) and after a week or so I felt I was losing my mind. I called the doc who tried to persuade me that “those feelings will pass—keep taking the drug”. The next day I was descending into mental hell from that drug and stopped taking it that day. In 2 days I was back to my normal self. Not only did he have no business prescribing that drug for me, but he had the gall to charge me for the phone call that I made to him around 5PM on a Friday. I did NOT pay that bill. I’ve read horror stories about Prozac as well as success stories–so it depends on the individual, how that drug will work for them.

I once had Impramine–another drug from hell for me. ONE dose landed me in the hospital.

I tried Neurontin once: it zonked me out. I only tried it because I complained to a neurologist that I was having memory issues on Lyrica (for PN). I quickly decided I’d rather have memory problems than be zonked out of my mind.

I’m sure I’ve had other drugs that I wouldn’t take again, but can’t recall (no, not because of the Lyrica–that just causes short-term memory loss in me–at least that’s what I’ve been blaming for the past few years. :slight_smile: )