updated October 29, 2022
If you live somewhere that observes Daylight Saving Time, you may notice disruption in your sleep for a few days after we “spring forward” in March and when we “fall back” to standard time in November.
Like jet lag from travel, these time changes can interrupt our sleep schedule for a few days. And if you already have trouble sleeping, it’s even more of a problem.
Here’s a review of what sleep professionals recommend to help. But for persistent or severe problems, see your own doctor to get started.
This information is current as of the publication date; it is general medical information that helps doctors and patients make decisions about what is right for them. Medical recommendations and practice changes as we learn new things. Discuss with your physician or appropriate healthcare provider .
These profiles are for your “information and inspiration”, and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by me .
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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 not due to some other cause. 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 can you sleep better with chronic insomnia?
The first step for chronic insomnia as well as occasional difficulty sleeping is identifying and treating any underlying medical issues that might cause poor sleep. In addition to the ones mentioned above these include
- any painful condition
- heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux)
- congestive heart failure
- lung diseases like asthma causing nighttime breathing difficulty
- menopausal night sweats
Sleep meds were one of the 7 drugs that are overused in my previous post.
(Read more about Ernest Hemingway’s preserved Florida home at this previous post)
Lifestyle for better sleep
Experts recommend sleep hygiene , basically lifestyle changes, as the initial treatment. Some people have developed bad habits in regards to sleep that need to be unlearned and new behaviors put in place.
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 for better sleep
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.
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.
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.
Another option provides CBT via an app
Somryst® is a prescription-only digital therapeutic intended to provide a neurobehavioral intervention (CBT-I) to patients 22 years of age and older with chronic insomnia. Somryst treats patients with chronic insomnia by improving a patient’s insomnia symptoms.from the website
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 .
Expert advice from physicians
Think alcohol will help you sleep better ? Read this advice from a psychiatrist, Dr. Melissa Welby.
Curious about sleep apnea? Dr. Deborah Burton offers this review of another common sleep problem.
exploring the HEART of healthy sleep
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