I Need to Get More Sleep!
Do you have trouble falling asleep and check the clock every 40 minutes? Or, do you wake up during the night around 4:00 a.m. and know you are not going to get back to sleep? If so, you have insomnia and are in good company.
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What Should You Do if You Suffer from Insomnia?
What I really need is to get more quality sleep. Falling asleep is one symptom of insomnia, staying asleep through the night is another. I don’t remember having any problems sleeping when I was younger. I know comfort is important I enjoy a whole body sleep pillow because they are so adjustable. Worth a try. The first thing to check is the comfort of your bed!
I don’t even remember ever having sleep problems as a young mother! I was exhausted many times but still seemed to sleep well. Do you remember when you were a teenager and you set your alarm for 15 more minutes and you actually went back into a deep sleep? Where did that go?
Some of us talk about “hitting a wall” in the early afternoon and know that if life allowed it, we would take a nap. Taking a nap is not an accepted use of your productive time. Even if no one says that to you, you know it and would feel guilty curling up on the couch in the middle of a workday- Ridiculous.
So I wondered, has it always been that as we get a little older we lose sleep, or have there been changes in our lifestyles in general that interfere with our sleep?
We have all heard about our internal clocks and there are morning people and night owls. It does seem that morning people act a little more virtuous about jumping out of bed in the morning and getting right to work. Those of us who are night owls really enjoy sleeping in and am not embarrassed one bit.
What Is Insomnia?
I guess insomnia really has to be defined in a couple of ways.
Everyone probably suffers from what is called acute insomnia at one time or another.
Acute insomnia is when you have stress and you just can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe you are worried about a specific event happening the next day or replaying the job interview you had today. Maybe you have a sick child or had an argument with someone. This will make your heart pound and your mind race for sure. There is a lot of sleep lost by trying to solve problems we can’t do anything about as we toss and turn.
Chronic insomnia, however, is when you can’t get to sleep or stay asleep for at least three nights a week for about three months. We don’t like to miss sleep, so most people start to look for remedies before they identify what is causing the sleeplessness. We all don’t suffer from the same causes of insomnia, so we aren’t all going to respond to the same solution.
Solutions for Sleeping Problems are Very Complex and Can Be Difficult to Treat.
Do the experts really know?
- Is it “one size fits all” solution?
- Is it stress, eating before bed, screen time, TV, or caffeine?
- Where does snoring fit in?
- From what can tell there is no sure way to diagnose insomnia.
Symptoms of Insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep despite being tired
- Waking up frequently during the night
- Trouble getting back to sleep when awakened
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Relying on sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Daytime drowsiness, fatigue, or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
I didn’t realize what a huge problem this is for the adult population!
Surveys conducted by the NSF (1999-2004) reveal that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. Most of those with these problems go undiagnosed and untreated.
Did you know there are twice as many women suffering from insomnia than men? Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause cause lots of sleep issues. Those of us who are women know this, but should still seek help if your insomnia is chronic.
If you are an older adult, you may have read that older people require less sleep. This is actually false. People in their 60s and beyond still need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. What is true is that older people tend to get sleepier in the evening and start to wake up earlier, now becoming a “morning person.”- Ha! I’ll believe that when I see it.
Medical Reasons for Insomnia
There really are medical reasons why some people have insomnia, and if you have one of the following examples and can’t sleep, you should really get the advice of a doctor.
- Nasal/sinus allergies
- Gastrointestinal problems such as reflux
- Endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Low back pain
- Restless Leg Syndrome & Sleep Apnea are actual sleep disorders that will require medical attention. Most people who have these problems – know it.
Check your medications for side effects that cause insomnia.
What Happens When We Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
We all know how rotten we feel without enough sleep and we know that sleep is just part of staying healthy!
- Sleep is vital for good health and well-being.
- Getting enough quality sleep can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
Getting enough sleep is SO important for children. We all have experienced the company of an overtired child and it isn’t pleasant.
Sleep supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep promotes normal growth in children and teens. Even your immune system is affected by sleep. If you are sleep deficient, you may get sick more often and have trouble fighting off infections.
Lack of Sleep is Literally Dangerous?
The following information from The National Commission of Sleep Disorder Research is really ALARMING!
- Falling asleep while driving is responsible for at least 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths each year in the United States. Young people in their teens and twenties, who are particularly susceptible to the effects of chronic sleep loss, are involved in more than half of the fall-asleep crashes on the nation’s highways each year.
- Sleep loss also interferes with the learning of young people in our nation’s schools, with 60 percent of grade school and high school children reporting that they are tired during the daytime and 15 percent of them admitting to falling asleep in class.
- According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), one to four percent of all highway crashes are due to sleepiness, especially in rural areas and four percent of these crashes are fatal.
Risk factors for drowsy driving crashes:
- Late night/early morning driving
- Patients with untreated excessive sleepiness
- People who obtain six or fewer hours of sleep per day
- Young adult males
- Commercial truck drivers
- Night shift workers
- Medical residents after their shift
I have to point out the importance of sleep to WEIGHT LOSS!
- Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. One study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. This is true for adults as well.
- Lack of sleep actually affects hormones that make you feel hungry!
- Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin. We have all heard about the importance of insulin and losing weight. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.
What Can You Do If You Are Lacking Sleep?
SO MANY remedies are available. You really have to be an informed consumer and beware of “quick fix” remedies with no reliable research.
I decided to check out the sources that I would consider having good advice. I have nothing against home remedies or herbal supplements, etc. I just want to know that there is some meat behind the claims before I decide to spend my money.
The following list of tips to improve sleep is a start and I have tried many of them. The point is to try them on a consistent basis.
Tips on Getting to Sleep & Staying Asleep
- Stick to the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. I know this is a great tip, but is it realistic for most of us? Maybe if we don’t have anything else to do but plan our sleep.
- Exercise, but not close to bedtime. – No worries here.
- Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. This is probably good advice and most of us can’t nap if we are at work. This is the time of day when I wonder what it would be like to be a cat and curl up in a warm sunny spot on a rug.
- Use a sound machine or a fan to block noise from inside or outside the house. Okay. I like this one and use it. Running a vaporizer is white noise and helps deal with dry air. I also like running a diffuser with essential oils. It claims to make you sleep better and I love the smell of lavender.
- Install darkening blinds for morning light or wear a sleep mask. Well, this depends on the time of year but does make sense. I know it makes a difference for children who pop-up at the first sight of daylight.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Hmmmm. When does the evening begin”? Just kidding.
- Avoid all caffeine hours before bed. Having even one diet coke in the evening can lead to being wide awake at bedtime.
- Wind down. There is a lot of advice about screen time and TV and that it can activate the brain. Maybe, but I’m not sure I buy that. If that is the case, how can my husband fall fast asleep during any TV show or movie? I guess if you have trouble falling asleep, you could try avoiding electronics before bed.
- It is probably a good idea to disconnect electronics that are on your nightstand from such as laptops, phones, and tablets, as the light from their screens can alert the brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Relaxation exercises. This actually works pretty well for me but requires a lot of concentration.
You lie in bed and focus on your breathing. Focus on each breath coming in and keep that focus when you exhale. At the same time notice your different body parts becoming relaxed. The trick here is that when your mind starts to wander, and it will, bring yourself back to the breathing. I try this when I wake up in the middle of the night.
- Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle and is available as an over-the-counter supplement.
- Over-the-counter sleep aids may help some people in the short term, but they are not intended for long-term use or as a comprehensive fix for insomnia.
- If you and your doctor have determined the cause of insomnia, a particular sleep aid may be indicated for this cause.
Remember, your Doctor is going to have many ways to find the right solution for YOU.
Please take a look at the following references for more information on how to Get To Sleep & Stay Asleep.