Help! I Have Insomnia!
We’ve all been there, whether it’s an occasional sleepless night or chronic insomnia. We go to bed and then lay there for hours wondering if we will ever drift off to sleep. Or maybe you go to sleep fine, but then you wake up at 3:00 a.m. and you just can’t fall back asleep. There are multiple things that contribute to insomnia, and there are specific things you can do to remedy sleepless nights.
Types of Insomnia
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects 35% of adults. It can keep you from falling asleep at night, staying asleep, or cause you to wake up too early. Some people also struggle with quality of sleep, meaning they lack the amount of REM sleep or deep sleep that is needed to feel rested.
Causes of Insomnia
There are many things that contribute to sleep disturbances. Let’s look at the most common:
- Poor bedtime routine and sleep habits
- An irregular sleep schedule, like staying up late on the weekends or doing shift work.
- Chronic pain, illness, or sleep apnea can impact quality of sleep.
- Caffeine consumption.
- Some medications can contribute to sleeplessness.
- Stress can make it difficult to relax and allow the brain to wind down for sleep.
- Anxiety or depression–ruminating over things that make you feel anxious or depressed can contribute to insomnia. It is common for people to develop anxiety over the fear of not being able to fall or stay asleep. This creates a vicious cycle of sleeplessness. Anxiety can also cause you to suddenly wake in the night feeling panicked.
- Other mental health disorders like ADHD, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and others, often contribute to sleep difficulties.
These are a few of the more common causes of sleep disturbance. It’s very common for people to struggle with a combination of these issues. If this is you, I’m sure you are wondering what you can do to fix the problem.
The treatment for insomnia starts with basic adjustments to your daily routine. If you are having trouble sleeping, start with these basic changes:
- Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 12 hours, so limit your caffeine to that morning cup of joe.
- Get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Don’t sleep in more than an hour past your normal wake time.
- Avoid napping.
- Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, quiet, and dark. Using ear plugs, an eye mask, or a sound machine may be helpful.
- Turn off all media 30 to 60 minutes before bed. The blue light from electronics tells the brain to stay awake. Make sure the last hour of the day includes relaxing activities.
- Create a consistent bedtime routine that prepares your mind for sleep.
- Don’t use alcohol to fall asleep. Studies show that alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it inhibits rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, resulting in sleep disruptions and poor quality of sleep.
- Avoid nicotine, as it is a stimulant that will keep you awake. It will also cause you to wake more often and reduce your quality of sleep.
- Don’t use your bed for things like watching TV, studying, or doing work. Your brain will connect your bed with wakefulness.
- Eat healthy and get regular exercise, but avoid heavy meals or vigorous exercise two hours before bed.
- If you haven’t fallen asleep in 20 minutes, get up and do a calming activity like reading a book, drawing, or writing in a journal. Avoid electronics which will cause wakefulness. After 30 minutes go back to bed. Repeat this cycle if needed.
- Talk to your doctor about supplements, over-the-counter medications, and prescription drugs that can be helpful for reducing insomnia. There are numerous, non-addicting options that can be helpful in treating insomnia.
Therapy for Insomnia
If you’ve tried these recommendations and you are still struggling to get consistent sleep, consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Counseling can be especially helpful if you are experiencing anxiety about your sleep issues. Going to bed worried about whether you will be able to fall asleep sets you up for failure. In my next blog post I will share more about how therapy can help you get back to sleep. If you already feel like therapy could be helpful, don’t hesitate to contact me.