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.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

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

This post was featured at Thursday Favorite Things Link Up

Most viewed post #4 -5 steps to manage stress and strain

Read the 4th most viewed post on my blog this year about managing stress #stressmanagement

In the 4th most viewed post  I offered  some personal reflections.

I developed the  post idea after reading a medical journal article about ways to help patients dealing with depression with or without medication. The article offered advice helpful to anyone dealing with a crisis, or even the ordinary stress of life.

When I wrote the post, I was  dealing with a personal health crisis, so I had the chance to take my own advice. (We physicians tend not to do so.) Now, the crisis is resolving, but I intend to continue to practice the 

 

5 steps to manage the stress and strain of life

 

As a college graduation gift, I gave a friend’s son a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble Bookseller. He earned a  mechanical engineering degree  and will work as a rocket structural engineer.

He sent me a nice handwritten thank you note (which few people do these days) and said he plans to use it to buy a book that other structural engineers recommend. The book is Roark’s Formulas for Stress and Strain. Roark's Formulas for Stress and Strain- a book

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a formula for handling the stress and strain of life?

Many health issues would resolve or be easier to manage if life stressors would just go away.  Three fourths of the patients treated by primary care physicians have problems aggravated by  emotional, social, or behavioral issues.

Life’s  interruptions and disruptions won’t disappear, but you can make them less of a strain on your time, energy, and resources. There’s usually no quick fix but 5 steps can lessen their impact.

I’m learning the value of these steps now as I deal with the stress of a foot fracture that is not healing as expected. I’m now facing surgery to correct it, and a longer convalescence than I expected. For someone who is used to being active, this prolonged inactivity stresses me both physically and emotionally. These 5 steps were already a part of my life, but consciously choosing them now helps me cope with what would otherwise cause frustration and sadness.

5 steps to manage life’s stress and strain

1. Create and maintain a routine and schedule.

Having a plan for your time helps you feel more in control of your life.  Resist the tendency to become socially isolated or avoid activities you usually enjoy. 

a smartphone lying on a calendar page with a planner and cup of coffee
from Lightstock.com (affiliate) stock photo site

Times of crisis, loss, or illness may leave you feeling disconnected and adrift, but having a schedule provides structure and connection. When you are busy, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. 

2. Recognizing and reaching out to social supports

Your family and friends are your first line of  support during times of stress and duress. It’s nice if we don’t have to ask for their support, but their lives are busy too, so don’t be hesitant to ask for help if you need it. If they don’t call you, call them.

2 women talking over coffee with open bibles
Conversation over coffee can be therapeutic. graphic from the Lightstock collection( affiliate link)

Other sources for help include your healthcare professionals;  don’t be embarrassed to share that you need social and emotional support. Your doctor can help you identify and get connected with community resources.

Look for help from your or your spouse’s job, your religious community, organizations you belong to, your school, and online resources for support- educational sites, forums, support groups.  Although not as personal as face to face support, these are helpful  if  you are  geographically isolated or mobility is difficult.

3. Reframe by refocusing on the positive rather than the negative.

Recognizing and emphasizing the positive in life makes the problems less overwhelming and distressing. Look for something to be grateful for, or that brings a little joy into your day. It may be as simple as flowers blooming in your yard, your favorite tea and sweet,  a funny story in a magazine.  

balloons-get well IMG_2269.jpg
Balloons are nice, too.

Remembering and observing happy events, occasions, and celebrations can also be sources of renewed joy.

 

Norma, a woman facing terminal illness, reframed her crisis by finding joy in small things, like jigsaw puzzles, new foods, and a “good perm”. Read more about her at

Driving Miss Norma- a book reviewDriving Miss Norma - a book cover

4. Stay active mentally and physically

Physical activity doesn’t have to be a chore, boring, or expensive. Many things can be done at home or in your neighborhood-walking, bicycling, cardio, yoga. If exercise isn’t your thing, try dancing, gardening, swimming. 

If your  physical mobility is limited,  try something stimulating mentally-sewing, crafts, games, puzzles, writing, cooking are just a few possibilities.

checkerboard

5. Nurture your inner self

Sometimes we need to withdraw from outward activities and stimulation for times of quiet rest and reflection.woman with hands bowed in prayer

You may  find help from mindfulness, meditation, prayer, devotional reading, music, journaling,  or a combination of these approaches.

Breathing exercises can lessen anxiousness and tension.

Free Loose Leaf Tea Filter and Free Shipping with any Mighty Leaf Wellness purchase. (affiliate link)

woman standing with arms lifted to the sky

In this post, a retired nurse blogger uses gardening for both exercise and mindfulness.

The Zen of Gardening 

“But what I like most about gardening is how I can get lost in the moment of whatever I’m doing; whether it’s planting, weeding or pruning. It truly is a togetherness of body and mind.”

 

 

 

 

Tyndale House Publishers offers spiritual and devotional books.

Try their free Reader Rewards Club  at this link. Come Read with me-Tyndale Rewards.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate disclosure; some of the  photos in this post are from Lightstock, a source for photos, videos, and graphics. With a free account, you can get a weekly free photo.

Learn more at this link. 

cheesy-free faith-focused stock photos
Please visit Lightstock.com for quality photos, graphics, and videos (an affiliate link)

 

RoboForm Password Manager. (this is an affiliate link) 

You’re likely reading this post on a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, so you visit sites that require a password. How do you remember them all? You don’t have to if you use RoboForm Password Manager.

a sketch of various electronic devices
RoboForm Everywhere to manage your passwords

My husband introduced me to RoboForm years ago and I am glad he did. I have used it continually to remember my passwords so I don’t have to. It syncs to both my computer and my phone so my passwords are always available. It will even generate passwords for me.

Go to this link to try RoboForm Free; if you like it you can upgrade to RoboForm Everywhere version with all the features I mentioned above. With Roboform, you will have one less thing to feel stressed about.

 

 

Please share with your friends and

follow Watercress Words as we explore the HEART of HEALTH.  

Thank you. Dr. Aletha 

5 steps to manage stress and strain

Many health issues would resolve or be easier to manage if life stressors would just go away. Three fourths of the patients treated by primary care physicians have problems aggravated by emotional, social, or behavioral issues.

As a college graduation gift, I gave a friend’s son a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble Bookseller. He earned a  mechanical engineering degree  and will work as a rocket structural engineer.

He sent me a nice handwritten thank you note (which few people do these days) and said he plans to use it to buy a book that other structural engineers recommend. The book is Roark’s Formulas for Stress and Strain.

Roark's Formulas for Stress and Strain- a book

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a formula for handling the stress and strain of life?

Many health issues would resolve or be easier to manage if life stressors would just go away.  Three fourths of the patients treated by primary care physicians have problems aggravated by  emotional, social, or behavioral issues.

Life’s  interruptions and disruptions won’t disappear, but you can make them less of a strain on your time, energy, and resources. There’s usually no quick fix but 5 steps can lessen their impact.

I learned the value of these steps when I dealt with the stress of a foot fracture that required surgery to correct it, and a longer convalescence than I expected. For someone who is used to being active, the prolonged inactivity stressed me both physically and emotionally. These 5 steps were already a part of my life, but consciously choosing them helped me cope with what would otherwise cause frustration and sadness.

5 steps to manage life’s stress and strain

 

1. Create and maintain a routine and schedule.

Having a plan for your time helps you feel more in control of your life.  Resist the tendency to become socially isolated or avoid activities you usually enjoy. 

a smartphone lying on a calendar page with a planner and cup of coffee
from Lightstock.com (affiliate) stock photo site

Times of crisis, loss, or illness may leave you feeling disconnected and adrift, but having a schedule provides structure and connection. When you are busy, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. 

 

 

 

2. Recognizing and reaching out to social supports

Your family and friends are your first line of  support during times of stress and duress. It’s nice if we don’t have to ask for their support, but their lives are busy too, so don’t be hesitant to ask for help if you need it. If they don’t call you, call them.

2 women talking over coffee with open bibles
Conversation over coffee can be therapeutic. graphic from the Lightstock collection( affiliate link)

Other sources for help include your healthcare professionals;  don’t be embarrassed to share that you need social and emotional support. Your doctor can help you identify and get connected with community resources.

Look for help from your or your spouse’s job, your religious community, organizations you belong to, your school, and online resources for support- educational sites, forums, support groups.  Although not as personal as face to face support, these are helpful  if  you are  geographically isolated or mobility is difficult.

 

 

3. Reframe by refocusing on the positive rather than the negative.

Recognizing and emphasizing the positive in life makes the problems less overwhelming and distressing. Look for something to be grateful for, or that brings a little joy into your day. It may be as simple as flowers blooming in your yard, your favorite tea and sweet,  a funny story in a magazine.  

balloons-get well IMG_2269.jpg
Balloons are nice, too.

Remembering and observing happy events, occasions, and celebrations can also be sources of renewed joy.

Norma, a woman facing terminal illness, reframed her crisis by finding joy in small things, like jigsaw puzzles, new foods, and a “good perm”. Read more about her at

Driving Miss Norma- a book review
Driving Miss Norma - a book cover

 

 

 

4. Stay active mentally and physically

Physical activity doesn’t have to be a chore, boring, or expensive. Many things can be done at home or in your neighborhood-walking, bicycling, cardio, yoga. If exercise isn’t your thing, try dancing, gardening, swimming. 

If your  physical mobility is limited,  try something stimulating mentally-sewing, crafts, games, puzzles, writing, cooking are just a few possibilities.

checkerboard

 

Consider a fitness app on your phone like Aaptiv, at this affiliate link (commission to blog if you use)

 

 

5. Nurture your inner self

woman with hands bowed in prayer

Sometimes we need to withdraw from outward activities and stimulation for times of quiet rest and reflection.

You may  find help from mindfulness, meditation, prayer, devotional reading, music, journaling,  or a combination of these approaches.

Breathing exercises can lessen anxiousness and tension.

I use the breathing exercises on the Aaptiv Fitness app to relax and unwind after a long day.


These affiliate links may help you deal with stress and strain. (At no extra cost to you, purchases through this link help me fund this blog.)

My Reader Rewards Club is a great way to earn free books and Bibles for yourself, friends, and family! Your journey to earning free faith-based products starts HERE.
(When you sign up through these links, I can earn free books too.)

Join my Reader Rewards Club
READ.REVIEW.REDEEM myReader rewards club

As a member, you’ll have access to inspiring literature, Bibles, special promotional offers, and much more. Earning points is easy—you’ll receive 25 points just for signing up!

RoboForm Password Manager.

You’re likely reading this post on a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, so you visit sites that require a password. How do you remember them all? You don’t have to if you use RoboForm Password Manager.

My husband introduced me to RoboForm years ago and I am glad he did. I have used it continually to remember my passwords so I don’t have to. It syncs to both my computer and my phone so my passwords are always available. It will even generate passwords for me.

Go to this link to try RoboForm Free; if you like it you can upgrade to RoboForm Everywhere version with all the features I mentioned above. With Roboform, you will have one less thing to feel stressed about.

Help with tech stress

If computer problems cause you stress, you may find help at my husband’s tech blog. He’s a computer guy with years of professional experience that he’s now sharing at

techsavvy.life

sharing the HEART of health

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.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha