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Sleep Education: Insomnia

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Insomnia is a condition in which the sufferer has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep through the night or both. The lack of sleep can create issues in the sufferer’s daily life. If insomnia lasts longer than a few weeks and you feel excessively tired during the day, it’s advisable to see a trained professional to evaluate and treat your insomnia.

The causes of insomnia are varied. In general, the most common causes fall into one of the categories listed in the paragraphs below.

Common Causes of Insomnia

  • Medical problems such as pain disorders, depression, medication side effects or issues with breathing.
  • Circadian rhythm disorder. The circadian rhythm is the body’s normal 24-hour activity cycle. Our bodies are naturally made to reset every 24 hours. Any disruption of this cycle, whether it be in the body’s maintenance of the cycle or an external environmental change, will throw off the rhythm and create difficulty sleeping at desired times.
  • Lifestyle factors such as recent sleep schedule change, lack of exercise or too much caffeine.
  • Sleep environment concerns such as a poor mattress quality, uncomfortable room temperature, too much light or excessive noise.
  • Stress. Whether at work or in the home, if the stress level is high this can make it difficult for a person to sleep since they often have trouble clearing their minds of their concerns.

Seeing a sleep professional can be helpful in determining exactly why you’re having sleep issues and how treatment might be addressed in your particular case.

It’s important to remember that with insomnia, the most important diagnostic tool will be the information you give to your doctor. Your medical history and family history will be reviewed, as well as pertinent information on your symptoms. It’s advisable to keep a sleep diary; record symptom details such as how often they occur, what else occurs at the same time, what helps symptoms, what makes them worse and what methods of treatment have you tried and whether they work. Also, record your particular sleep habits, including bedtime, time to rise, how long it takes to fall asleep, what your pre-bedtime routine is and any other pertinent details that may help or hinder your sleep ability.

Treatment

Treatment of insomnia can come in many facets. Medication may be needed at times, especially at first, to help you sleep better. However, the most beneficial effects often come from healthy lifestyle changes. While the commitment to these changes might seem overwhelming in the beginning, if you are able to stick with it, they will pay off.

Some of the most useful lifestyle adjustments include:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Exercise regularly. Avoid strenuous activity two to four hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid or limit naps.
  • Use bed only for sleep, sexual activity and resting when ill.
  • Don’t spend too much time in bed trying to fall asleep. Instead, if you can’t fall asleep, get up and do something until you become drowsy.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake.
  • Avoid highly stimulating activity right before bed, such as use of computer, TV and video games.
  • If your worries don’t let you sleep, keep a diary next to your bed where you can write them down and then allow yourself to stop focusing on them.
  • Cultivate a sleep-conducive environment where you are relaxed and comfortable.
  • Learn relaxation techniques, which can be helpful in releasing stress and anxiety that may prevent you from sleeping. Some possible techniques include yoga, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Reference: National Sleep Foundation

Image of man using cell phone in bed.

Suffering From Insomnia?

Treatment of insomnia can come in many facets. The most beneficial effects often come from healthy lifestyle changes.

One tip is to avoid highly stimulating activity right before bed such as TV, video games and use of the computer.

Image of young woman meditating before bed.

Learn Relaxation Techniques

Cultivate a sleep-conducive environment where you’re relaxed and comfortable.

Learn relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Dr Jochism

Dr. Sean Jochims, Neurologist

Dr. Sean Jochims graduated medical school with the prestigious Rick Wartgow Award for dedication to medicine. He also received Excellence in Teaching Awards as chief resident in neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Education
  • Medical School: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Internship/Internal Medicine: Northwestern University
  • Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship: Rush Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, Chicago
  • Participant at Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine
Board Certifications
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