It’s perfectly normal to occasionally lose sleep over a stressful situation at work or to be awakened by noises in the night. But if you’re tossing and turning in bed on a regular basis, you might be suffering from insomnia.
Striking about a third of the adult population at some time in their lives, insomnia is defined by difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up too early, or not feeling refreshed upon waking up despite having had an adequate opportunity for sleep, says Dr. Victor Shpilberg of Norton Healthcare. Because sleep is so vital to our physical, mental, and emotional health, insomnia can wreak havoc on our lives if left untreated.
Solution #1: Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
The first line of treatment is eliminating behaviors that contribute to disturbances in the body’s sleep/wake cycle, Shpilberg says. These include irregular bedtimes, daytime naps, exercising less than six hours before bed, having a TV or radio in the bedroom, and using the bed or bedroom for non-sleep activities. Shpilberg also recommends eliminating alcohol and tobacco, which are known to disturb the body’s circadian rhythm; avoiding caffeine after 2pm; drinking eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated; and keep light, sound, and temperature in the bedroom at a level conducive to sleep. “And don’t lay there for longer than 20 minutes if you’re unable to sleep,” Shpilberg says. “Get up, walk around, and then go back to bed.”
Solution #2: See Your Doctor
If you’re still having trouble sleeping after modifying your behavior and lifestyle, consult your physician to rule out or address other underlying issues. “Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can manifest themselves as insomnia,” Shpilberg. says. “Conditions such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, overactive bladder, and restless leg syndrome can make it difficult to sleep.” Bring your medicines to your appointment for review (some drugs can interfere with sleep), and consider getting checked for obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that makes it difficult to get restorative sleep. If your doctor recommends sleep aids, make sure to use them only as directed and for no longer than two weeks at a time.
Do you suffer from Insomnia? What helps you?