Expert advice to sleep well every night

 

 Almost everyone has trouble sleeping occasionally, but for some it is a frequent or persistent problem. Here is information that may help.

person sleeping on a couch

Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge.

(Affiliate links are used in this post.It costs nothing extra to shop through these links and this blog may earn a small commission, which funds its existence. )

What is Chronic Insomnia ?

Most of us have trouble sleeping occasionally, but if you persistently have difficulty with sleep, you may have a medical condition associated with sleep disturbances. These include

  • sleep apnea
  • restless legs syndrome
  • depression and/or anxiety
  • post-traumatic stress disorder

Some people have true chronic insomnia, meaning persistent sleep difficulty alone. There are various criteria to diagnose chronic insomnia but in general include

  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • at least 3 nights per week for at least 1-3 months
  • with impairment of daytime function, such as fatigue/sleepiness, poor concentration, irritability, school or work dysfunction

How is chronic insomnia managed ? 

First step in treatment of chronic insomnia as well as occasional difficulty sleeping  is identifying and treating any underlying medical issues that might contribute to poor sleep. In addition to the ones mentioned above these include

  • pain, of all kinds
  • heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux)
  • congestive heart failure
  • lung diseases like asthma  causes nighttime breathing difficulty
  • menopausal night sweats

Sleep specialists recommend non-drug management of chronic insomnia and reserve sleep medications for more resistant cases. 

Sleep meds were one of the 7 drugs that are overused in my previous post.

a bed with ornate headboard

photo by Dr. Aletha- at the Hemingway house, Key West, Florida

(Read more about Ernest Hemingway’s preserved Florida home at this previous post)

Hemingway’s study- chaos and creativity

Sleep hygiene management

Experts recommend sleep hygiene , basically lifestyle changes, as the initial treatment.

For optimal sleep you should

  • Engage in regular exercise- moderate intensity , tai chi , yoga and low-impact aerobic exercise
  • Avoid evening large meals
  • Limit caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
  • Use the bedroom only to sleep and for sex
  • Maintain a regular bedtime-awake schedule
  • Avoid daytime naps
  • Avoid distracting stimuli at bedtime-watching television, using electronic devices, talking on the phone
  • Stay in bed only while sleep

 

 

How to dim the lights

The light from electronic devices- clocks, thermostats, televisions, monitors-can disturb your sleep even after you turn off  your phone and tablets. This light can be blocked by stick on light blocking covers than can block out the majority of it.

affiliate link

Light from my clock made it hard for me to fall asleep before I discovered these products. With them I fall asleep easier, and can fall back asleep if I wake up.

 

 

 

Maintaining a regular schedule helps to set or reset your  sleep/wake cycle. So go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.

However, if you can’t  sleep, rather than lie in bed awake, you should get up, do a non-stimulating activity, then return to bed when sleepy.

woman typing on a laptop keyboard.

Using a computer, laptop, or tablet before going to bed can impair sleep.

 

 

 

If you have persistent sleep loss, consider more intensive therapy by a professional.

Cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia , CBT-I , significantly improves chronic insomnia and daytime functioning and is recommended as first line therapy.

CBT-I combines cognitive therapy with sleep restriction, relaxation training and stimulus control.

Treatment typically requires 5-8 sessions conducted by a health professional trained in its use. Patients need to participate by keeping a sleep diary and writing down daily thoughts in a journal, while continuing with the sleep hygiene practices mentioned above.

person writing in a spiral notebook

Writing thoughts in a journal is often encouraged in cognitive behavioral therapy. (photo from the Lightstock.com collection)

 

 

Insomnia sufferers can also get help from an online web-based CBT-I, Sleep Healthy Using the Internet , SHUTi.

One study found 70% of those participating improved their sleep, compared with 43% who received education only.  If you  can’t find a trained therapist or don’t have time for office based therapy, this may be a good option.

SleepPhone by Acoustic Sheep

A physician, Dr. Wei-Shin Lai had trouble falling asleep after being awakened at night by calls from the ER. Her husband suggested listening to relaxing music to help her fall asleep.

She designed a comfortable headphone for her own use, and eventually started a company to make and sell them . You can try her SleepPhone  made by her company AcousticSheep.

 

 

Manage stress, learn to relax

If you have  occasional trouble sleeping due to stress,  relaxation techniques can help you.  Techniques include  meditation, yoga, imagery, abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques . These can reduce tension and anxious thoughts that inhibit sleep onset and maintenance.

You may find these ideas from a previous post helpful .

5 steps to manage stress and strain

 

man with hands folded over a book

Expert advice from physicians

Think alcohol will help you sleep better ? Read this advice from a psychiatrist, Dr. Melissa Welby.

The truth about alcohol and sleep

Curious about sleep apnea? Dr. Deborah Burton offers this review of another common sleep problem.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DIFFERENT SLEEP APNEA TYPES

 

 

 

 

Please share on your social media sites and follow Watercress Words as we continue to explore the heart of health. My goal is to bring health and wholeness to everyone who seeks it and hope you will join me.  Please visit my resources page.

Dr. Aletha 26952564_10213093560871954_4239554644472378905_o

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4 thoughts on “Expert advice to sleep well every night

  1. Teresa

    Insomnia is a major problem for many Americans and carries with it lots of health risks. I’m fortunate in that I personally don’t have a problem sleeping, but my husband certainly does. Thank you for sharing this valuable and helpful info!

    Like

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