Expert advice to sleep well every night

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 such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, depression, or PTSD.

If you live somewhere that observes Daylight Savings Time, you get an “extra” hour of sleep the first Sunday in November when you revert to standard time; unfortunately you lose that hour in the spring when DST starts.

But just like the 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.

 

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
EXPERT ADVICE TO SLEEP WELL EVERY NIGHT

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. 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

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.

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

exploring the HEART of healthy sleep

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

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 
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This post was featured at Thursday Favorite Things Link Up

Simple and effective ways to manage chronic pain -part 2 of a series

The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.

In a previous post I talked about non-drug methods to manage pain in the spine-neck and back. You may want to review it now, but reading  this one first is fine. This post will focus on other painful conditions.

While people often discover methods to relieve pain that work for them, I am focusing here on treatments that are supported in the medical literature or recommended by knowledgeable professionals. For this post, I reviewed many articles which summarized current studies.

Finding trustworthy medical information

How do doctors know what works and what doesn’t? Since medical knowledge has changed since we went to medical school , how do we know what is current information?

We read literature pertinent to our fields on a regular basis, attend conferences, and talk to other doctors. But when we need a specific question answered , we do what you do-we Google it.

shelves in a library with adjacent computers
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Library, located on the organization’s campus, in Atlanta, Georgia. The CDC collections span the field of public health. Print and electronic resources cover such topics as disease prevention, epidemiology, infectious diseases, global health, chronic diseases, environmental health, injury prevention, and occupational safety and health. The main library in Atlanta and selected branch libraries are open to the public. used courtesy CDC/ Emily Weyant; MSLIS; ORISE Fellow

One of the most frequently reviewed is PubMed listing  more than 28 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. The service is free and anyone can use it. PubMed is a service of  the National Library of Medicine, the largest biomedical library in the world ,located in Bethesda, Maryland,

Another major reference is the Cochrane Library, a collection of databases in medicine and other healthcare specialties ; a fee is charged to use this service.

Basic points about complementary treatments for pain management

We should use medication and surgery when appropriate, but when these can’t be used or are not helpful, we can consider alternative methods, or what I and other doctors prefer to call complementary or integrative treatment.

This post focuses on symptom relief, not necessarily curative treatment.

Herbals and supplements are drugs and can be effective for certain conditions, but this post will discuss non-drug treatments only.

Many cases of pain improve spontaneously with no specific treatment.

Almost everything works sometimes.

There are few if any down side to any of these treatments. Used under supervision they are unlikely to have adverse side effects or result in long term complications.

The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.

SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO MANAGE CHRONIC PAIN-WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

Migraine

Migraine is more than just a bad headache; it is a disorder of the brain which causes pain as well as other common symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise.  Dizziness, numbness, and  loss of vision occur less frequently.

diagram of the human brain.
The major parts of the brain, including the pineal gland, cerebellum, spinal cord, brain stem, pituitary gland, and cerebrum are labeled. I photo courtesy of Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Alan Hoofring (Illustrator)

Most people with migraine require some type of medication for relief, but non-drug treatments can supplement meds and can be helpful for prevention. Integrative treatments that work according to studies include

  • acupuncture
  • biofeedback
  • CBT-cognitive behavioral therapy
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • relaxation training
  • yoga

Fibromyalgia

I mentioned fibromyalgia in my post about back and neck pain, but  include it here  since it causes pain in other body areas.

Fibromyalgia seems to be a disorder of nerves which makes them super sensitive, leading to diffuse muscle and joint pain that can become disabling. Complementary treatments recommended include

  • Mind-body-guided imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, mindfulness meditation , relaxation
  • Tai chi
  • Hydrotherapy, balneotherapy

Osteoarthritis of the knees (degenerative arthritis)

It is likely that arthritis in other joints responds to these therapies but there aren’t enough large studies to confirm.

  • Acupuncture,
  • tai chi
  • walking and  strengthening exercises
  • Balneotherapy-bathing in hot water mineral baths

people in a gym exercising
photo courtesy Amanda Mills, CDC.gov, Public Health Image Library

 

 

 

 

Tessa Frank  discusses how she became frustrated when increasing doses of opioids didn’t relieve her chronic pain, and what she’s doing now to manage her pain.

How I’m Managing My Chronic Pain Without Opioids

“While I no longer use opioids, I do use non-opioid prescription medications and a spinal cord stimulator to provide pain relief for my CRPS, complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic, debilitating neuropathic pain condition.

I’m also hyperaware of how stress triggers my increased feelings of pain, so to mitigate stress, I personally have found relief in meditation, relaxation and yoga among other approaches.” (excerpt)

 

 

 

 

If you didn’t read it earlier, here’s a link to the previous post about treating pain, along with a brief excerpt.

Surprising effective ways to relieve back pain

“Pain in the spine results from many medical conditions, ranging from minor to life threatening. Most cases are due to routine or excessive physical activity or a minor injury causing strain of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and will go away with no or minimal intervention in less than 12 weeks.”

 

 

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Please consider helping support this blog by using my affiliates. You’ll find links in the side bars, on the home page, and on the resource page.

In a future post I will talk about  non-drug treatments for other conditions.

always exploring the HEART of health with you.

                       Dr. Aletha  WATERCRESSWORDS.COM-exploring the HEART of health