Don't let sleep issues take control of your life
“Problematic insomnia” is a common disorder affecting an estimated 6-10 percent of adults. Possible causes include biological clock problems, obstructive sleep apnea, medications, restless leg syndrome, and other medical or psychiatric illnesses.
Conrad Iber, MD of Fairview Sleep Centers says that physicians 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. The first step in solving your insomnia problem is to meet with your physician or a sleep specialist. Evaluation will include a careful collection of your sleep and health history, and possibly a sleep study.
What causes insomnia?
Insomnia can be caused by many different factors including:
Tendency to insomnia: Some people seem more likely to have insomnia during times of stress, while other people respond to stress by getting a headache or stomachache. Knowing that you are likely to get insomnia, and that it won’t last too long can be helpful in dealing with it when it happens.
Relationship problems, a child with a serious illness or an unrewarding job may contribute to your problem sleeping. Learning healthy ways to deal with stress may help cure your insomnia.
Psychophysiological (learned) insomnia
If you sleep poorly during times of stress, you may begin to worry about not being able to function well during the day, which may make you decide to try harder to sleep longer at night. This usually makes thing worse. Things like changing into your sleep clothes, turning off the lights and pulling up the blankets may suddenly make you wide awake. Some people with psychophysiological insomnia may fall asleep quickly when they are not in bed. They may drift off on the couch, while reading the newspaper, watching TV, or driving, but will feel wide awake as soon as they go to bed. Even a few nights of poor sleep can trigger psychophysiological insomnia. Treatment includes “unlearning” the reminders of poor sleep and learning new sleep habits.
- Stimulants: Caffeine keeps you awake. If you have coffee at night, your sleep will be less restful even if it does not keep you from falling asleep. Nicotine also keeps people awake, and smokers may take longer to fall asleep than non-smokers. Many medications have stimulants in them.
- Alcohol: While it may help you fall asleep quickly, alcohol is likely to make you wake up throughout the night.
- 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—If paperwork and worry have taken over your bedroom, these activities and unwanted thoughts may be preventing you from falling asleep. At bedtime the link between these activities and your bedroom keeps you awake. Limiting stimulus (activity, 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 and on activities that produce a feeling of calm.
- Cognitive Therapy—Some people think that bad things will happen to them if they get less than eight hours of sleep. Cognitive therapy uses reasoning to correct faulty ideas and thoughts. This helps promote sleep because it relieves daytime worrying and bedtime wakefulness.
Try these tips for controlling stimulus
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep, illness and sex. 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 of reading.
- 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. Your bedroom should be where you go to sleep. It’s not a place to go when you are bored.
- Avoid taking naps. If you absolutely must nap, take only one nap of less than one hour. Never take a nap after 3 p.m.
- Maintain a regular schedule for meals, medications, chores and other activities. This helps 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. (Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.)
- 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.
Find out more
If you’re concerned about your sleep, talk to your provider about a referral to Fairview Sleep Centers.
Fairview Sleep Centers:
Fairview Sleep Centers – Brooklyn Park
located within Fairview Clinics – Brooklyn Park
10000 Zane Ave. N., Suite 202
Brooklyn Park, MN 55443
Fairview Sleep Centers – Chisago City
located within Fairview Clinics – Chisago City
11725 Stinson Ave.
Chisago City, MN 55013
Fairview Sleep Centers – Edina
Southdale Medical Building
6545 France Ave. S, Suite 450D
Edina, MN 55435