Insomnia is when you have trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep. Chronic insomnia can lead to serious health problems, but simple lifestyle changes can often help you overcome this problem, without the need for a sleep specialist, or sleeping pills that carry risks.
Insomnia isn’t a single sleep disorder. Instead, it’s more often a symptom of other problems. In order to address your insomnia, it’s best to identify and resolve the root problem of your sleeplessness. Ask yourself the following questions to figure out what is causing your sleeplessness:
- Ami I under an unusual amount of stress?
- Am I suffering from depression or anxiety?
- Could my sleeplessness be due to a recent traumatic experience?
- Is my medication affecting your sleep?
- Have I been evaluated by my primary care doctor for health conditions that may be affecting my sleep?
- Do I have a good sleep environment?
- Do I get enough sunlight during the day? Do I let myself stay in the dark enough at night?
- Do I have a consistent schedule for going to bed and waking up?
Talk to your primary care doctor about suspected psychological and physical conditions that may be affecting your sleep. Make sure you are tested for health conditions that may keep you from sleeping. Once you have eliminated medical conditions, it’s time to investigate your sleep habits.
If you think your bad habits are keeping you from sleep, it’s time to establish good sleeping habits, such as:
- Creating a good sleeping environment. Your sleeping environment should be quiet, dark, and cool.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Sleep problems may be due to a confused biological clock. Creating a regular sleep schedule can help reset it.
- Avoid naps. Avoid naps when possible. When you must nap, limit it to 30 minutes before 3 p.m.
- Avoid stimulating activity and stressful situations before bedtime. Don’t watch TV, exercise, or have arguments or discussions before bed. Banish the laptop, tablet, and smartphone from the bedroom.
- Work to associate the bed with only sleep and sex. Don’t do anything else in bed, including reading, work, and TV. When you can’t sleep, get out of bed so you don’t associate it with sleeplessness.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. These can all interfere with your sleep. Avoid them for at least 8 hours before bedtime.
- Prepare your brain for sleep. Get sunlight during the day and limit artificial light at night.
For many people, these strategies can can reduce or eliminate insomnia.
Shift Work and Insomnia
Shift work can lead to sleeplessness. In this case, it is your work, and not your body or mind, that is the problem. Research suggests that only a small number of people are able to fully adapt to shift work, and if you are not one of them, you may never be able to get good sleep while doing shift work.
Many of the above tips, though, can help shift workers as well. Try to get on a consistent schedule, expose yourself to bright, full spectrum light during your “day,” and make sure your sleep environment is cool, dark, and quiet, even though it’s the middle of the day.
Dr. Andy Fine in Littleton, CO can help identify the cause of your sleeplessness or implement a solution. Please call 303-703-8583 or schedule an appointment online.