One in ten American adults have suffer from insomnia (defined as inability to adequately sleep for at least fourteen consecutive nights). Whether it is trouble with falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep (waking up either multiple times or simply way too early), this lack of restorative sleep leads to more than simply daytime fatigue. Sleep deprivation causes trouble with concentration and memory, irritability and other mood disturbances, and actually can lead to higher rates of infection, diabetes, heart disease, and cancers. As such, I'm going to spend the next several blog entries talking about insomnia issues and solutions.
While some sleep disturbances (such as sleep apnea and restless legs) will definitely require medical interventions, the good news is that a great deal of sleep issues can be significantly improved or solved with some behavioral modifications. What can you do?
Sleep Hygiene Improvements:
- Eliminate or greatly reduce caffeine- even morning coffee affects the quality of your nighttime sleep. (You can keep the coffee- but wean to decaf!)
- Exercise in the morning (or at least a few HOURS before bedtime)
- Avoid "screen time" in the two hours before bed- do your dishes/laundry/non-screen chores if necessary, read a book, play with your pets or enjoy the lost art of conversation
- Take a warm shower or bath just before going to bed
- Use ALL your senses to relax during that bath- smell, sight, sound (think lavender soaps, soft music or nature sounds, and candle light- there is a reason SPA's use all these!)
- Go STRAIGHT to bed after the shower- don't get sidetracked by housework or electronics
- Make your bedroom dark and cool (consider blackout shades and ceiling fans)
- COVER THE CLOCK (no peeking at your phone or clock to watch the minutes tick by one after another!)
- Until you are sleeping WELL again, move the pets OUT of the bedroom.
BOTTOM LINE: If you suffer from insomnia, talk to your family doctor to try and identify the cause, and include these sleep hygiene tips along with any necessary medications to maximize your long-term success.