Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. It is involves difficulty getting enough sleep despite allowing enough time for sleep. Symptoms include trouble falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and/or waking earlier in the morning than desired. These problems sleeping at night cause symptoms during the day, which can include fatigue, sleepiness, attention problems and/or mood problems.
Many people have experienced brief bouts of insomnia that are usually triggered by life circumstances. In most instances, these periods of acute insomnia are short lived and go away when the triggering stressors are resolved. However, many people experience insomnia on a more frequent or chronic basis, often for months or years, which can be debilitating. Insomnia can exist on its own or be related to other medical or psychiatric problems. Many treatment options, including sleep hygiene, are available that can help improve the sleep of patients experiencing insomnia.
Tips for Successful Sleep
- Establish a regular routine that includes going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Maintaining a consistent sleep-wake cycle is the key to better health overall.
- Get an adequate amount of sleep every night. Determine the amount of sleep you need by keeping track of how long you sleep without using an alarm clock for a week. Maintain this "personal" sleep requirement.
- Go to bed when you are sleepy. If you have difficulty falling asleep or wake up shortly after going to sleep, leave the bedroom and read quietly or do some other relaxing activity. Avoid overly bright lights as this can cue your wake cycle.
- Develop sleep rituals before going to bed. Do the same things in the same order before going to bed to cue your body to slow down and relax.
- Avoid stress and worries at bedtime. Address tomorrow's activities, concerns or distractions earlier in the day. Certain activities, such as listening to soft music, reading or taking a warm bath, can help you wind down.
- Use your bed for sleeping and sex only. Often, doing other activities in bed like watching TV, paying bills or working only serve to initiate worries and concerns. Let your mind associate the bed with sleeping, relaxing and pleasure.
- Avoid heavy meals late in the evening. Similarly, avoid going to bed hungry. A light snack, especially dairy foods, can help you sleep.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and nicotine 4 to 6 hours before going to sleep. Stimulants interfere with your ability to fall asleep and progress into deep sleep.
- Avoid alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. As a depressant that slows brain activity, alcohol may initially make you tired, but you will end up having fragmented sleep. In addition, being tired intensifies the effect of alcohol. Alcohol also aggravates snoring and sleep apnea.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise, even for 20 minutes, 3 times a week, promotes deep sleep.
- Don't nap for more than 30 minutes or after 3 p.m. Avoiding naps all together will ensure that you are tired at night. Longer naps disrupt the body's ability to stay asleep.
- Maintain a dark, quiet and cool room to sleep in at night.
- Use sleeping aids conservatively, and avoid using them for more than 1 or 2 nights per month.
Additional Information on Insomnia