Insomnia Tips

Sleep disturbances of various types are an increasingly common problem. It is estimated that approximately 30-40% of the general population experience occasional sleep disturbance. But, 15-20% suffer from chronic insomnia and 65% of patients who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders suffer from insomnia. Most people seem to function at their best when they get an average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. While it is normal for our sleep patterns to be intermittently disturbed, disturbed sleep which lasts for weeks is not. Various types of insomnia include: difficulty falling asleep, problems staying asleep, and early morning awakening. There are many potential causes of chronic insomnia, though often insomnia is one of the many symptoms of depression or anxiety. Here are some generalsleep hygiene guidelines for improving the quality of your sleep. The more you unlearn your bad sleep habits and practice good sleep hygiene, the better your sleep will slowly become, but don’t expect immediate results. If insomnia is part of an emotional disorder such as, depression, anxiety or a medical disorder, make certain you are getting treatment for that problem.
  1. REGULAR SLEEP TIMES: Make a habit of going to bed and waking up at the same times everyday, regardless of how tired you are or are not. If not a regular bedtime, then at least try to wake up the same time everyday.
  2. THE BED IS FOR SLEEPING: Use your bed only for sleeping and sex. Don’t read, watch TV, talk on the phone, etc. in bed. As much as possible, getting in bed should be associated with going to sleep. Make a habit of doing everything else in a nice comfortable chair.
  3. AVOID NAPS: While a very short nap during the day (no more than 15 minutes to half an hour) is probably OK, try to avoid sleeping during the day.
  4. LATER TO BED: This strategy should be used if you are usually able to fall asleep OK, but have trouble staying asleep. Try going to bed approximately an hour or two later than your usual bedtime. Stick regularly to that new later bedtime for a few weeks.
  5. NUTRITION: Avoid all caffeine products after 3 PM (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate), use herbal teas instead. Avoid alcoholic drinks, they may help you to fall asleep, but will disturb your sleep later in the sleep cycle. If you are often awakened by the need to urinate, get into the habit of drinking earlier in the evening, but avoid liquids for at least an hour before bedtime. If you must drink then, drink less or just wet your mouth.
  6. DEEP MUSCLE RELAXATION (DMR): Learn how to focus your mind on deeply relaxing your muscles, one muscle group at a time. Ask a therapist to teach you DMR and use DMR audio tapes while falling asleep.
  7. GIVE UP ON TRYING TO FALL ASLEEP: Relaxation exercises also help because they give you something else to focus on besides worrying about not sleeping. Sometimes trying too hard to get to sleep backfires and you start to worry about not getting to sleep, which then keeps you awake. Instead make your goal getting as relaxed as possible. Give up on trying to sleep, the goal is getting relaxed, it’s almost as good as being asleep and won’t backfire. Other distractions such as sound machines, soft music, etc., may also help.
  8. DON’T LAY AWAKE IN BED: If you are laying awake in bed for more than approximately 45 minutes, get out of bed, into your most comfortable chair or couch and do something drowsy (read something boring, watch some boring TV, etc.). When you start to get drowsy again, get back into bed.
  9. PHYSICAL EXERCISE: Do get some exercise on a regular basis (walking, running, biking, etc.). Don’t exercise too soon before going to bed though (leave approximately 3 hours).
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