Catch some ZZZZZZZZs!
If you can't sleep, you may have insomnia—the term used to describe problems falling asleep or staying asleep, early morning awakenings or poor quality sleep. Having occasional insomnia is normal, but insomnia may be abnormal if it occurs on a regular basis and makes it hard for you to function during the day.
Dr. Conrad Iber of Fairview Sleep Centers says doctors take insomnia seriously due to its significant impact on quality of life, higher risk of accidents, missed work, and increased risk or recurrence of depression or anxiety.
What causes insomnia?
Insomnia is a symptom of another problem, and can be caused by many different factors, including psychological factors, lifestyle and ongoing stress.
A sleep specialist may suggest these behavioral changes to help you sleep better:
- Sleep restriction—People with insomnia may stay in bed for a long time hoping this will result in more sleep. Instead, too much time in bed spreads sleep over a long period, breaks up sleep and increases frustration.
- Stimulus control—Limiting stimulus (activity, computers, noise, light, lying awake in bed, etc.) in the bedroom will improve your chances of falling asleep quickly and staying asleep.
- Relaxation therapy—Focus on pleasant thoughts in a quiet setting that produce a feeling of calm.
Try these tips for controlling stimulus
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool. It should remind you of a cave.
- Don’t work, read or use a computer in the bedroom.
- Begin rituals that help you relax each night before bed. This can include a warm bath, a light snack or a few minutes reading.
- Don’t go to bed until you are sleepy. If you are not sleepy at bedtime, do something relaxing but not stimulating to take your mind off of worries about sleep.
- If you are not asleep after 20 minutes in bed, get up, leave the bedroom, and start a quiet activity somewhere else. Don’t let yourself fall asleep outside the bedroom. Return to bed only when you are sleepy. Repeat this process as often as necessary throughout the night.
- Avoid taking naps. If you absolutely must nap, take only one nap of less than one hour. Never nap after 3 p.m.
- Maintain a regular schedule for meals, medications, chores and other activities to keep your body clock running smoothly.
- Get up at the same time every morning, even on weekends and holidays.
- Don’t have caffeine after lunch.
- Don’t have beer, wine or other alcohol within six hours of bedtime.
- Don’t have a cigarette or other source of nicotine before bed.
- Don’t go to bed hungry, but don’t eat one big meal near bedtime.
- Avoid strenuous exercise within six hours of your bedtime. Exercise regularly but do it earlier in the day.
- Avoid sleeping pills if possible, or use cautiously. Most doctors do not prescribe sleeping pills for periods of more than three weeks.
- Take time during the day to deal with the things that are worrying you. Talk with a family member or friends. Express your feelings by writing in a journal. If your worries persist, talk to a therapist..
Is your problem sleep apnea?
Perhaps your problem is not insomnia, but sleep apnea, a disorder which can cause you to stop breathing briefly but repeatedly throughout the night. As a result, you wake up exhausted. Untreated sleep apnea can have serious health consequences. A sleep study in your home or in a sleep lab may help diagnose this potentially dangerous disorder. To help determine if you have sleep apnea, take our sleep apnea risk assessment.
Find out more
If you are concerned about your sleep, talk to your doctor. He or she may refer you to Fairview Sleep Centers.