8 Ways to Knock Out Insomnia

One sheep. Two sheep. Three sheep. If it often takes you more than 20 minutes, and counting several hundred sheep, to go to sleep, you may have insomnia. About 30 to 35 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia – difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early. In addition, about 10 percent of adults have chronic insomnia – sleep difficulties that happen at least three times a week for at least three months.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia is often associated with other conditions, such as stress, depression, pain, pregnancy, menopause or restless leg syndrome. Some medications, including certain asthma, cold and allergy medicines, as well as medications for ADHD, high blood pressure or Parkinson’s disease, also may cause insomnia. Additionally, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and food sensitivities may interrupt the ability to sleep well.

Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Making a few lifestyle changes can help improve sleep.

  1. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends.
  2. Create a bedtime ritual that helps you relax, such as reading or a hot bath.
  3. Avoid electronics at bedtime because the light from the screens may be disruptive to sleep.
  4. Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes each day but not within several hours of bedtime.
  5. Don’t eat a large meal before going to bed, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco or medications that can disrupt sleep.
  6. Make sure the room temperature is comfortable, and the bedroom is dark and quiet.
  7. Avoid taking naps in the late afternoon.
  8. Get up and do something quiet if you cannot fall asleep, and go back to bed when you’re tired again.

Feeling sleepy from time to time during the day is normal. However, insomnia may cause other symptoms as well, including lack of energy or motivation, difficulty concentrating, mood swings or poor work performance. If insomnia begins to impact your daily activities, it is time to see your doctor.

Insomnia can be diagnosed based on medical and sleep histories (keeping a diary of sleep) as well as a physical exam.

A sleep study may be recommended if the cause of the insomnia is not identified. Your doctor may first suggest lifestyle changes or may prescribe medication called hypnotics to help you sleep. However, many of these pills usually are taken on a short-term basis because they can become habit-forming or less effective over time.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) may be recommended to help you change thoughts and actions that can interfere with sleep. CBT uses methods such as relaxation training and biofeedback to help reduce anxiety and get restful sleep.

For more information about overcoming insomnia, talk with your doctor.

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