Insomnia: what you can do to catch more Zzzs
Whewee! The holidays are here and there’s so much to do. We’ve all got a lot on our minds, and it may be interfering with our sleep, just when we need it most.
Of course, not all insomnia is the same. For some, it’s situational. A stressful period in your life, for instance, can cause sleepless nights. Approximately 60 million people report having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. For others, insomnia is a chronic or long-term condition that affects over 30 million Americans.
For short-term insomniacs, there are many causes:
- Stress keeping your mind overactive
- Travel or work schedules can disrupt your body's circadian rhythms
- Poor sleep habits like napping, an irregular sleep schedule, engaging in stimulating activities just before bed or too much screen time in bed are a few
- Eating too much late in the evening can be physically uncomfortable when you lay down–and may cause heartburn
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are all sleep disruptors.
Medical conditions or treatments can also play a role:
- Mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, may disrupt your sleep.
- Depression often makes sufferers wake up early, before having a full night of sleep
- Medications for asthma or blood pressure and certain antidepressants asthma or blood pressure are known to interfere with sleep, as are over-the-counter pain, allergy and cold medications, and weight-loss products
- Medical conditions, like chronic pain, cancer, diabetes heart disease, asthma Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are all linked to insomnia
- Sleep apnea is a physical condition that causes you to stop breathing periodically throughout the night, interrupting your sleep
- Restless legs syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in your legs and an almost uncontrollable need to move them, which can keep you awake
For most insomnia sufferers, there are things you can do to get some more shuteye. Even those with sleep disorders brought on by an underlying health condition can benefit from these tips, though they are no substitute for a doctor’s care.
Top tips for a (more) restful night
- Stick to a schedule, meaning keep your bedtime and waking hours consistent (including weekends)
- Exercise more, because regular physical activity helps promote a good night's sleep (just not right before bedtime)
- Check your meds for known side effects–sleeplessness could be one of them
- Try not napping, which can make you less sleepy at bedtime
- Cut back on stimulants, such as caffeinated beverages or nicotine
- Watch your alcohol intake
- Avoid large meals and beverages an hour or more before bedtime
- Set the mood by making your bedroom comfortable
- Create a relaxing ritual, like a warm bath, reading or listening to soothing music
If your sleeplessness persists, contact your physician. There are steps you can take together to identify the causes and find a course of treatment that works for you.