How many nights have you spent tossing and turning while trying to fall asleep? Once you fall asleep, you wake up a couple hours later and the tossing and turning begins again. It becomes a terrible cycle of attempting to sleep while looking at the clock. Many of us will start calculating how many hours of sleep we will have if we can fall asleep in the next few minutes. Sometimes we are able to fall asleep rather quickly and other times, not so much.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. There is acute and chronic insomnia. There are many reasons which can cause insomnia, some of which are stress, change in sleep pattern, change of shift at work, anxiety, caffeine, depression, medication, eating late, exercising late and the list goes on. Knowing the cause can help with treatment and a resolution.
There are also several risk factors associated with insomnia. Women experience insomnia more than men. This does not mean that men do not suffer from insomnia, it just means that their stats are lower. Another risk factor is age, if you are over 60 you are more likely to experience this issue, as insomnia increases with age as sleep patterns change with age. Another risk factor is work, if you have a varied schedule this changes your sleep schedule and you may find it difficult adjusting to the new sleep pattern. Jet lag is also a risk factor for insomnia, so if you travel for your job, be aware of this issue.
Here are some treatment suggestions for acute insomnia:
1. Decrease stress: Utilize stress reduction techniques such as taking a walk, deep breathing, speaking with a trusted loved one, managing your time better and progressive muscle relaxation.
2. Caffeine: Decrease or ban caffeine from your diet, as this will help with sleep for most people as caffeine is a stimulant. Some people can have caffeine right before they go to sleep and they do not have any sleep issues. However, other people should slowly decrease their caffeine intake if it is disrupting sleep.
3. Utilize Sleep Hygiene: Go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday, including weekends. Utilize your bedroom for sleep and sex only. Have a set routine before bed and do that routine at the same time every night. You want your body to start associating your bedtime routine and bedroom with sleep.
4. Exercise: Research states that exercising for 30 minutes, three to four times per week consistently, will help improve your sleep over time.
5. Non-Preferred Activity: If you cannot sleep after 15 minutes, get up and do an activity you will not enjoy. An example would be cleaning the toilet and bathroom. If you hate cleaning the bathroom, this is the activity to do when you cannot sleep. If you do an activity you enjoy such as reading or watching TV you are stimulating your mind with joy. You want to sleep, not watch TV. Try a non preferred activity, you will be surprised how often this works for acute insomnia.
If you suffer from chronic insomnia, you may want to consult your healthcare provider who can assist with a sleep study and treatment plan.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment.
Dr. Deb is a successful Psychologist who practices in New York City. She is an Anxiety Specialist who works with adolescents and adults providing both individual and couples counseling.