By Michael A. Smith, MD
You feel sluggish and achy all the time. Your mood changes at the drop of a hat. Your boss thinks you’re losing your edge as you can’t seem to stay on top of things like you did a few years ago.
Your doctor says you’re going through an inevitable “change” of life and are probably depressed. Perhaps he has also started you on an antidepressant.
Do you relate to any of this? Well, if you do, you’re not alone. Millions of middle-aged Americans — both men and women — are indeed going through this “life change”. And yes – in many cases, these symptoms are related to the loss of hormones characteristic of middle age.
But could it be something else? Quite possibly.
Poor Sleep Makes You Feel Old
Here’s something you need to understand: Poor sleep makes you feel old. You can sleep through the night, getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours, and still suffer from lack of quality sleep.
Sleep consists of a series of stages. Each plays a role in restoring and regenerating your brain and body. What determines a healthy night’s sleep is how well you cycle through the different stages of sleep.
If you don’t cycle through all of them, you won’t feel rested the next day. And if this goes on and on and on … you’ll feel old. Other symptoms will develop too. You know, things like body aches, headaches, digestive issues, nerve problems and mood disorders, just to name a few.
So could your symptoms really be tied to poor-quality sleep?
The Common Signs of Poor Sleep
If you sleep throughout the night but don’t cycle through all the stages, you may find yourself suffering from muscle weakness, the blues, a lack of interest in things that you normally enjoy, and nervous system complaints like headaches and twitching.
Your mornings are probably more productive, which might be a result of self-medicating with caffeinated drinks or eating high-energy, sugary breakfast pastries. The cortisol surge in the morning may help as well.
But by mid-afternoon, even if you eat a healthy lunch, you’ll most likely crash. At this point in the day, you might find yourself staring at the computer screen, thinking about the same thing over and over again. Concentrating in this state is pretty much impossible.
A second surge in cortisol around dinner time may improve your energy and concentration. But this soon fades as the responsibilities of home — your kids’ homework, cooking and cleaning — take over. At this point in the day, you’re physically and mentally tired, ready for a “good” night’s sleep.
But here’s the problem: Calming your brain down enough to sleep well is almost impossible after a day like this. You may feel tired, but your brain chemistry is likely all messed up. Fortunately, there’s hope.
Warm Milk Really Does Work for Sleep
As a kid, did your mom ever tell you to drink warm milk if you couldn’t sleep? Well, she was right. Warm milk contains small proteins, called peptides, that help calm the brain so that you can sleep well, cycling though all of the stages of sleep.
However, there’s a trick to preparing warm milk. You first have to bring the milk to a slight boil and then immediately remove it from the heat. Let it cool a little and drink. The boiling actually breaks up the milk proteins (the peptides) into smaller fragments. It’s the peptides that calm your brain.
But we’re adults now. Our days are way more hectic than they were as kids. Warm milk, although effective, may not be strong enough for you. This is where a milk peptide supplement can help.
Used widely in Europe to promote sustained and restful sleep patterns, milk peptides, published studies reveal, promote relaxation, help with stress, and support daytime cognition.1-2
In a clinical study, a group of 63 women reporting a variety of sleep-related difficulties experienced as much as a 65% improvement in their symptoms when they took just 150 mg per day of a bioactive milk peptide supplement.3
What You Need to Know
If you’re feeling older than you should be, perhaps you’re not sleeping well. One common reason for this is an excited brain that won’t calm down enough to cycle through sleep’s many stages. This means you’re not experiencing the restful and restorative sleep that your brain and body require.
Don’t assume that you’re just going through an inevitable “change” of life. Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t.
To help, try doing some mental relaxation techniques before bed. Things like reading a book, listening to soothing music and avoiding anything electronic two hours before you hit the hay. Then try drinking some warm milk or supplementing with bioactive milk peptides.
See if you feel better the next day and even a little “younger” over the next month. If you do, then your problem was poor-quality sleep after all!
- The Open Sleep Journal.2009, 2: 26-32.
- Eur J Nutr. 2005 Mar;44(2):128-32.
- Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Apr;61(4):536-41.