‘Never lose sleep over something that isn’t worth staying awake for.’
Do you check your email or social media pages on your phone before you go to bed? Do you take longer to fall asleep when you do so? The light emitted by mobile phones, iPads and computers interferes with melatonin production, the hormone that induces sleep. To increase the likelihood of falling asleep soon after your head hits the pillow, avoid looking at a screen for at least an hour before going to bed. If you must send that SMS or email before the morning, hold the phone 40cm or more from your eyes (long-sighted people will be happy) and dim the light setting to the lowest level that still allows you to read.
Benzodiazepines (eg Valium) are not the solution to insomnia. Several studies have suggested (but not proved conclusively) that use of sedatives like Valium may increase the risk of dementia. The higher the dose and the longer the person has been using Valium, the greater the risk of dementia. Other studies have disputed this (but not convincingly). Either way, the side effects of benzodiazepines in older people include confusion, loss of balance and falls.
When I started looking after Dad six years ago, he was taking Valium almost every night. Apparently he had been doing so for many years. I slowly weaned him off them and he hasn’t had a Valium tablet in five years. The gift of dementia is that he soon forgot he had ever taken them. Recently I was typing a submission for a conference and it was after midnight (yes, I know I was not following my own advice!) Dad (who still lives with me) had got up to go to the toilet and saw my study light on.
“Why aren’t you asleep?” he asked.
“Because I still have work to do,” I replied.
“Isn’t life more important than work?” he responded.
And he’s supposedly the one with impaired cognition.