Almost 60% of adults now report insomnia at least 2 nights per week, half of these chronically. Three types of insomnia are: problems falling asleep, waking up and lying awake during the night or early morning, and poor quality of sleep. Insomnia averages about an hour and a quarter to fall asleep or lie awake during the night.
How Do You Know If You Are Getting Enough Sleep?
- Do you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning?
- Do you fall asleep during meetings, lectures, boring or sedentary activities, or while watching television?
- Do you habitually sleep late on weekends?
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Newborns require 16-18 hours of sleep a day, by middle age we only require an average of seven hours a night which decreases to roughly six and a half hours by the time we’re in our 70s.
Factors that Impact Sleep
- Body temperature
- Wakefulness system and a sleep system
- Medical Problems such as breathing conditions, gastrointestinal conditions, bladder problems, chronic pain.
- Mental Health Problems
- Underlying Sleep Disorders
Thoughts and Behaviors that Sustain Insomnia
- Spending more time in bed in an effort to “catch up” on sleep.
- Thinking you can control or force sleep by trying just a little harder
- Spending extended time in bed on your phone, computer or watching TV
- Using alcohol to promote sleep or caffeine to combat daytime fatigue
- Not exercising because of fatigue caused by insomnia
Risks Associated with Sleep Medications
- Impaired next-day alertness, memory, and coordination
- Reduced REM sleep
- Complex sleep behaviors and amnesia
- Physical and Psychological dependency
- As tolerance develops, one may need larger doses for the drug to work resulting in a never-ending pattern.
Suggestions to Improve Sleep
- Create and stick to a sleep schedule. Have a routine you follow even on the weekends
- Spending less time in bed can help you get more sleep! Get out of bed when you’re not sleeping. Don’t endlessly lie in bed trying to go to sleep. Get up and go do a boring activity – ex. read a non-thrilling book.
- Don’t worry about getting enough sleep. It’s the worry that can keep you awake. You only need 51/2 hours/night of core sleep to function.
- Avoid using electronics with a blue screen 30 minutes before going to bed
- Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep. People report sleeping better with cooler temperatures.
- Exercise and stay active. Avoid strenuous activity 2 hours before bed.
- Limit caffeine and avoid large meals and beverages before bed. Don’t go to bed hungry either.
- Practice mindfulness – being aware of the presence, and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and letting go, to quiet the mind and the body.
- Hide the bedroom clocks. The less you know what time it is at night, the better you’ll sleep.
- Take short naps. Occasional naps can be helpful, but don’t sleep more than 30 minutes at a time.
- Keep a notepad and pen by your bed and write down your to-do list before getting in bed. This can prevent waking up and thinking about what needs to happen.
- If you are a light sleeper consider keeping earplugs on hand.
- For people who find it difficult to wind down and relax enough to fall asleep or wake up “wired but tired” the Indian plant Ashwagandha, a natural supplement has been found helpful. It has an anti-anxiety effect that may help stop ruminating at nighttime.