Can’t Sleep? Help and Treatment for Insomnia
Not being able to sleep can be frustrating. Laying awake, watching the minutes tick by on the clock is more than annoying; if it happens a lot, lack of sleep can be dangerous to your health. A good night’s rest is important for physical and emotional well-being. And studies show that good sleep is associated with anti-aging as well.
Insomnia has been linked to depression, diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, heart problems, reflux, restless leg syndrome, chronic fatigue and even obesity, just to name a few.
So how do you know if it’s true insomnia or something else? Besides the obvious lack of time actually spent sleeping, there are several things to consider:
Signs you might not be getting enough good quality sleep:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Trouble staying alert during tedious or monotonous activities
How much sleep do we need?
Most adults require an average of seven to nine hours of sleep a night. According to the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine, most people tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter amounts of time as they get older.
The idea that older people require less sleep is controversial. A newer trend in thinking is that we need the same amount of sleep at any age. Still, about half of most people over 65 have frequent sleeping problems. This could be a normal part of aging, or could be from medical problems that are common as we age or from other things, such as medications.
Help for Sleep Problems
Sometimes adjusting a few simple things can improve sleep:
- Stay active-maintain regular activity and moderate exercise
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night, even weekends
- Spend some time outdoors during daylight hours each day
- Avoid caffeine for at least 3 hours before bedtime, even longer if possible
- Replace a worn mattress
- Keep your bedroom cool, quiet and tranquil
- Avoid alcohol. While it may make you sleepy, alcohol can cause you to wake earlier and sleep less
- Avoid nicotine
- Take a warm bath or shower before bed to help with relaxation
- Eat a light snack of carbohydrates and protein an hour before bed
Over-the-counter sleep aids usually contain antihistamine (such as diphenhydramine) and help with occasional problems, but they may cause drowsiness or dry mouth the next day.
The newer prescription medications for insomnia are less likely to be addictive and can help with short or long term sleep problems. There are several options and they work differently.
Complementary practitioners such as Dr. Ray Sahelian, M.D. have a personal preference for natural sleep aids. Some alternative remedies include:
- Chamomile Tea
- Lavender (oil or aromatherapy)
- Kava Kava
- Calcium, Magnesium, and B Vitamins are linked to relaxation
- Massage, acupuncture, hypnosis, cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation techniques, light therapy or yoga may improve sleep problems
Get to the root of the problem
Understanding what is causing sleep issues is key to solving the problem. Over-the-counter remedies can help with short term sleep trouble, but if the problem continues, it’s a good idea to seek help. The best treatments are based on accurate diagnosis.
Your doctor may send you to a sleep clinic or a doctor that specializes in other types of medicine. Chronic insomnia can be treated by different medical specialties. Some physicians are certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine, which means they have mastered specific clinical skills in the practice of sleep medicine.
If your sleep problems last more than a month, talk with your doctor about treatment options to find out which one is right for you. A restful, rejuvenating sleep is one of the most important aspects to good health.