According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), nearly one-third of American adults sleep less than seven hours a night. This condition can negatively affect your mood and make it difficult to stay alert during the day. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help relieve sleeplessness and improve your quality of life. Read on for tips that will help you rest easily night after night.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that keeps millions of people from falling and staying asleep. Short-term sleeplessness that lasts for days can make you feel tired and lethargic, while chronic sleeplessness that persists for more than a month can damage your health.
Symptoms of sleeplessness may include:
- Trouble falling asleep at bedtime
- Sleeping less than seven hours a night
- Waking up in the middle of the night
- Feeling tired or worn-out after getting up
- Feeling sleepy during the day
- Moodiness, anxiety, and irritability
- Slowed reaction times
- Making mistakes at work
- Absentmindedness and lack of focus
What Causes Insomnia?
Sleeplessness is usually related to stress, disruptive events, or a lifestyle that interferes with your sleep cycle. It can also be caused by poor eating habits, medication, age-related sleep patterns, and certain health conditions.
Common causes of sleeplessness include:
Anxiety and Mental Health Disorders
Worrying about your performance at work or school, your social status, family issues, or finances can make sleeping difficult. A traumatic event, like a serious accident, the death of a loved one, a difficult breakup, or losing a job, can cause stress-related sleep disorders. Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder may also disrupt your sleep.
Disrupted Sleep Cycles
Working irregular hours, experiencing jet lag, or suffering from external interruptions to sleep, such as a crying child, can disrupt your natural sleep cycle.
Using Electronic Devices at Bedtime
Watching television, playing video games, working on your computer, and scrolling through social media apps before bed can overstimulate your brain, suppress melatonin production, and interfere with your sleep cycle.
Sleeping in an Uncomfortable Bedroom
A messy, distracting room with too much noise or light can make it hard to fall and stay asleep.
Drugs, Alcohol, and Medication
Prescription antidepressants and over-the-counter allergy, cold, and weight-loss medications can disrupt sleep. Caffeine and nicotine can keep you up, while alcohol can reduce REM sleep and disrupt your normal sleep cycle.
Eating Before Bedtime
Eating heavy, high-carb meals before bedtime can activate your digestive system and prevent your body from resting.
Inflammatory and Neurological Conditions
Chronic pain, diabetes, arthritis, an overactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease can make sleep difficult.
Asthma and sleep apnea can interrupt or stop your breathing while you sleep.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is an uncomfortable condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs.
Prostate or Bladder Problems
The urge to urinate can wake you up at night and disrupt your sleep cycle. This condition becomes more common as you age.
Hormonal changes women experience during their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause can cause night sweats and hot flashes that contribute to sleeplessness.
What Treatment Options Help Relieve Insomnia?
Treating sleeplessness can be challenging, but fortunately, there are many solutions that can help you rest.
Medications and Supplements
Prescription medications, over-the-counter sleep aids, and natural supplements can be helpful treatments for sleeplessness when used correctly.
Many doctors prescribe sleeping pills for sleeplessness. Lunesta (eszopiclone), Sonata (zaleplon), and Ambien (zolpidem) are well-known prescription sleep aids. Several medications are approved for long-term use, but they can be habit-forming and cause side effects like dizziness and clumsiness during the day. For most cases of insomnia, doctors recommend that patients stop taking sleeping pills after a few weeks.
Over-the-counter Sleep Aids
Antihistamines are the active ingredient in most over-the-counter, non-prescription sleep medications like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Unisom (doxylamine). They can make you drowsy and are safe for occasional use. Unfortunately, antihistamines can cause serious side effects with long-term use, including sleepiness, confusion, cognitive impairment, and trouble with urination.
Some natural supplements, including melatonin, valerian, cannabidiol (CBD), and magnesium, can increase the production of sleep-promoting hormones or calm your mind. Most of these sleep aids are unregulated, so it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor before using them.
Changing your eating habits, reducing stress, and reducing your consumption of alcohol and stimulants can help prevent and treat sleeplessness. You should also:
Relax and Turn Off Your Electronic Devices
Before getting into bed, take at least 30 to 45 minutes to relax. Turn off your cellphone and computer at least one hour before bedtime.
Exercise releases endorphins and decreases cortisol production. It can stabilize your mood and help you fall asleep naturally. Aerobic exercise encourages deep, slow-wave sleep that helps your body repair itself and function better during the day.
Social activity can help you feel more connected to friends and family. Positive social interactions can help you feel more secure, which can decrease anxiety and make it easier to fall and stay asleep.
Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can help you become aware of and control thoughts and beliefs that make sleeping difficult. This therapy helps you learn to stop ruminating so you can develop good sleep habits.
Mindful exposure to light can help regulate your body’s internal clock. Spend time outside during the day or use a light box to help you reset your circadian rhythms so that you fall asleep when it’s dark and wake up around sunrise.
Get Ready for Bed: Tips to Help You Fall Asleep Quickly
The tips listed below can help you overcome sleeplessness:
Keep Yourself Cool and Comfortable
Keeping the temperature in your room between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit can help you fall asleep. Wear comfortable, breathable sleepwear and a high-quality mattress, pillow, and bedding to help you achieve deep rest.
Try 4-7-8 Breathing
The “4-7-8” breathing method relaxes the nervous system. It can be practiced any time you feel anxious or stressed.
Play Music and Try Aromatherapy
Relaxing music and scented essential oils like lavender and rose can calm your nerves and improve your mood.
Visit Your Happy Place
Visualize a place that makes you feel happy and calm. This imagery distraction will occupy your mind with feelings of serenity and help you relax before you sleep.
Take Care of Yourself and Put Insomnia to Rest
Sleeplessness is an unfortunate fact of life for many Americans, but it can be a treatable condition. Be kind to yourself and try to go easy whenever you can. With the right support and lifestyle changes, you’ll be no stranger to sweet dreams.