Nate Edwards via Flickr

Nate Edwards via Flickr

I just turned 44 last month, my kids are older now and I have more time for myself but find it hard to do anything other than go to work and come home to sleep.

I get 7-8 hours of sleep on average but tend to wake up a couple of times during the night and find it hard to go back to sleep.

I then wake up tired and drowsy. What can I do to get out of this funk? I need my energy back, please help!

Marie, Co

We are tackling reader’s questions at Healthgist and since we get a variant of this question on a daily basis in the clinic, it made sense to do a write-up on it.

Life is busy and if your body is not getting the downtime that sleep provides, you could literally blow a gasket.

As you explore ways of getting your “groove” back, try answering these questions to help you or your doctor arrive at the right solution for you.

Is your insomnia causing you grief? Pick up Your Complete Guide to Better Sleep and rid yourself of your sleep worries.

1. Do you snore or stop breathing during sleep?

Talk to household members as you would not be able to tell otherwise. If the you do, look into getting a sleep study done.

You could have sleep apnea; a medical condition where you stop breathing multiple times during sleep and your body wakes you up each time to keep you alive. You in turn don’t get any sleep!

2. Do you exercise?

If yes, keep it up. If no, start exercising, your sleep would be better for it. Exercise could be stimulatory so try to exercise earlier in the day or at least 3 hours before bedtime.

3. Do you look forward to going to work?

If no, could you be suffering from a burn-out? Try taking a vacation or a leave of absence if at all possible and see if your outlook and energy level improve when you come back.

4. Are you consuming stimulants like caffeine or tea (include Red Bull and Monster drinks in the list) late in the day?

If yes, you might want to limit your caffeine or tea consumption to earlier in the day so they don’t get in the way of sleep.

5. Could you be peri-menopausal?

Absence of a menstrual period for 12 months in a woman in her forties or fifties (and pregnancy has been ruled out) signifies menopause.

Up until that time, there would be wild fluctuations of the estrogen hormone level. That time is known as the peri-menopausal period. The hot flashes that come with “going through the change” also causes sleep irregularities.

Your doctor will likely order blood tests checking your blood count and your thyroid hormone levels.

Be sure to limit your consumption of alcohol because while alcohol may help you sleep on the short term , it would get in the way of a full night’s sleep in the long run.

Before you “ask your doctor if Lunesta is right for you”, try out any one of these over-the-counter sleep aids first;

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♦ Chamomile Tea

Herbal remedy that comes as a brewed tea used for centuries to lull people to sleep. Moderation is the key here. You don’t want to drink too much and have to wake up every hour to go to the bathroom.

♦ Unisom  

The downside to the sedating anti-histamines is that they can have a residual effect of grogginess the next day.

You can limit this side effect by allowing 8 hours of sleep time, meaning that you don’t take Unisom at 11PM when you need to be up by 5AM the next day.

Unisom or any one of it’s clones like Tylenol PM, Advil PM or good ‘ol Benadryl all contain anti-histamines that just by the way make you sleepy.

♦ Melatonin  

Your brain produces melatonin naturally and the level peaks at night to tell the body to shut down for the night. Supplementing your body’s production of melatonin could help you fall asleep.

Healthgist Bonus Tip: Melatonin works wonders for jet lag.

♦ Valerian Root

An herbal supplement that works well for getting you to sleep.


You don’t want to depend on sleep aids on a long term basis because they all stop working with prolonged use.

You don’t want to consume alcohol with sleep aids; they both suppress brain activity.

Do all these before asking for prescription  sleep medications. Less is better regarding medications.

Have you ever been in a similar situation as Marie? What helped you recover?

Would you like us to take on your health question in a future article? Click here to send us your question(s).[/show_to]

About the author

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Dr. Bola

Family physician. Works for the "man" by day, wife & mom 24/7.
Loves the work of translating "medicalese" to plain english.


  • I’ve had non-restorative sleep for 13 years. I had 3 sleep studies and all they say is that I snore. No apnea. I’ve now lost 111 lbs. Same exhaustion no matter if it’s a work day, weekend, or vacation. I mostly drink decaf tea. They draw blood every year. The doctors are at a loss.

    • First off I want to congratulate you on that ginormous weight loss. We are talking about an >100 pounds weight loss here!

      Looks like you are a right candidate for sleep aid- albeit in moderation. Most people on sleep medications do not need to be on them frankly, looks like you could use the help though.

    • Hi Cassi,

      Congrats on your weight loss! Have you ever had a daytime sleep study? It’s called a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). If you;re having non-restorative sleep and your doctors aren’t finding a cause there is a name for it… talk to your doctors about hypersomnia and idiopathic hypersomnia. You can check out my site and it will give you some tips on info to bring with to the doctor and where you can find others with the same condition.

      • Thanks for your contribution to the discussion Kasha. We have using the likes of Provigil and Nuvigil to help people with narcolepsy and hypersomnia (excessive sleep) stay awake during the day with good results. I don’t know the specifics on Cassi’s condition so can only say that she take your recommendation and see her doctor.

  • I am such a light sleeper, and I wake up at least 3-4 times at night. Though I’m in bed for 8 or so hours, I’m certain I’m not getting enough real sleep. And yes, I’m perimenopausal!

    • I hear you Sharon. Just starting to get back into my normal sleep pattern after having pregnancies and babies throw it off for a few years. My fear is that just when I get me sleep groove going, menopause would kick in and throw off things up again.

  • These are great! Right now my biggest problem is a 1 year old who can’t seem to sleep in her own bed all night. But once she is a bit older I need to look in to more options. Pinning now!

    • That too shall pass Jacki. I am yet to meet a teenager who relishes jumping into bed with mom and dad for the night.

  • I never have any problems falling asleep, but I definitely get tired and sluggish in the morning if I’ve had too much sleep. I’m still trying to find a good balance, but right now it seems if I get at least 6 hours, that helps me feel well rested, but doesn’t make me groggy. I do think I should get my blood levels checked though. I’ve started trying to work my way into a vegan diet, so I know that alone is probably wreaking havoc on my system!

    • Every now and then I run into people who cannot tolerate a lot of sleep. You are one of those rare folks Tisha. The rest of us have the opposite problem of not getting enough sleep!

  • These are great things to look at when not feeling rested! I have to admit, cutting out stimulating drinks like coffee and energy drinks has done wonders for my quality of sleep. My other must-haves are meditation, a wind-down bedtime routine, and diffusing sleep enhancing essential oils. This is a great trouble-shooting guide! <3

  • Thank you for the information. I am usually able to fall asleep unless I haven’t cleared my mind. I am an early riser so about mid morning I would need some tea to start my day. I think we all just need a vacation an extended vacation in Florida, maybe?

  • I have found that since my mid-40s the sleeplessness comes and goes, along with night sweats; usually the two go hand in hand. What’s helped me is wearing a light cotton sleeveless nightshirt to bed and keeping the room at a comfortable temperature. In a pinch melatonin (5mg) has helped too.

    • Thanks for sharing what has worked for you Rebecca. Those tips are bound to help out another lady going through the sleep disturbance of the 40s and beyond.

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