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What To Do When You Have Insomnia

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Tips To Treat Your Insomnia:

What to do about Insomnia
  • Keep a sleep journal. Consider recording your sleep patterns for a couple of weeks. Keeping a sleep diary can help you identify things that may be interfering with your sleep and make the needed changes.
  • Stick to a regular bedtime. Sticking to the same bedtime and waking the same time each day may help you get into a routine and improve your sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine several hours before bed. Caffeine is often a sleep stealer. Caffeine can stay in your system for several hours. Your best bet is to limit caffeine about four or five hours before bedtime.
  • Put away your cellphone, laptop and tablet. Your tech habits at bedtime may be preventing you from falling asleep. The light from your tech gadgets tricks your brain into thinking its daytime, so the production of melatonin is decreased. Less melatonin may make falling asleep more difficult. Consider making your bedroom a tech-free zone.
  • Relax before bed. With all the things in your schedule, it can be hard to unwind. But relaxing before bedtime is essential to drift off to dreamland. It can be hard to fall asleep if you have a million things on your mind. Before hitting the sack, consider doing something that helps you relax, such as deep breathing, reading or listening to music.

If these actions dont work, talk to your doctor as you may have issues that need to be addressed.

What Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Insomnia

If you have insomnia, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • Am I taking any medications keeping me awake?
  • What changes can I make to sleep better?
  • How does cognitive behavioral therapy improve sleep?
  • How do I find a therapist?
  • Could I have other sleep disorders like sleep apnea?

If you’re suffering from insomnia, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for help. They may offer tips for managing issues that interfere with your sleep. Many people with insomnia rest better after changing their diet, lifestyle and nighttime routines. Or they may also recommend medications or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/15/2020.

References

What You Can Do About It

There are a number of things you can try to help yourself get a good night’s sleep if you have insomnia.

These include:

  • setting regular times for going to bed and waking up
  • relaxing before bed time try taking a warm bath or listening to calming music
  • using thick curtains or blinds, an eye mask and earplugs to stop you being woken up by light and noise
  • avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, heavy meals and exercise for a few hours before going to bed
  • not watching TV or using phones, tablets or computers shortly before going to bed
  • not napping during the day
  • writing a list of your worries, and any ideas about how to solve them, before going to bed to help you forget about them until the morning

Some people find over-the-counter sleeping tablets helpful, but they don’t address the underlying problem and can have troublesome side effects.

Read more self-help tips for insomnia

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Tips To Beat Insomnia

If you are suffering from insomnia, there are many steps you can take to change behaviors and lifestyle to help you get to sleep. Here are some tips for beating insomnia.

  • Wake up at the same time each day. It is tempting to sleep late on weekends, especially if you have had poor sleep during the week. However, if you suffer from insomnia you should get up at the same time every day in order to train your body to wake at a consistent time.
  • Eliminate alcohol and stimulants like nicotine and caffeine. The effects of caffeine can last for several hours, perhaps up to 24 hours, so the chances of it affecting sleep are significant. Caffeine may not only cause difficulty initiating sleep, but may also cause frequent awakenings. Alcohol may have a sedative effect for the first few hours following consumption, but it can then lead to frequent arousals and a non-restful night’s sleep. If you are on medications that act as stimulants, such as or asthma inhalers, ask your doctor when they should best be taken to help minimize any effect on sleep.
  • Limit naps. While napping seems like a proper way to catch up on missed sleep, it is not always so. It is important to establish and maintain a regular sleep pattern and train oneself to associate sleep with cues like darkness and a consistent bedtime. Napping can affect the quality of nighttime sleep.
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    Tips For Taking Sleep Aids

    What Kind of Insomnia Do You Have? 5 Types and Their

    If you have a string of wakeful nights, you may want to talk to your doctor about trying an over-the-counter sleep aid. Sleep aids work by activating the sleep centers in the brain and turning off the wake centers, explains Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer. But you have to be careful. People start to think they must reach for something to get sleep at night. When that happens, medication can turn an acute case into a chronic one.

    She doesnt recommend options such as Benadryl® or alcohol. While they seem to help, they dont enhance the quality of your sleep. Even the short-term relief that comes with taking prescriptions like Ambien® may not outweigh the long-term risks of dependency.

    But be sure to talk to your doctor if your sleep aid doesnt work, does more harm than good or youre concerned about ongoing insomnia and other symptoms.

    To use sleep aids safely, Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer says to follow these tips.

    Allow enough time for a full nights sleep

    Most sleep aids recommend that you devote a full eight hours to sleep, so make sure you are sleeping enough, says Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer. You want sleep aids to help you fall asleep, but not leave you groggy the next day.

    Sleep aids are designed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep longer, but they shouldnt knock you out. If you have significant difficulty waking up in the morning, tell your doctor.

    Watch for side effects

    Only take pills for a short time

    Dont stop taking a sleep aid suddenly

    Recommended Reading: Va Sleep Apnea Field Manual

    Quiz: How To Know If You Have Insomnia

    I cant sleep at night. Do I have insomnia? Sleeplessness can affect anyone and it can be a huge problem for your daily routine and quality of life.

    According to the Sleep Health Foundation, as many as 1 in 3 adults in the country have at least mild insomnia, and about one-quarter of those experience persistent symptoms. And though most people struggle occasionally with getting enough rest, chronic insomnia can be much more difficult to manage.

    Find out more about this sleep disorder and how to understand if it is causing the difficulty you experience.

    Dietary Supplements For Insomnia

    There are many dietary and herbal supplements marketed for their sleep-promoting effects. Although they may be described as natural, be aware that sleep remedies can still have side effects and interfere with other medications or vitamins youre taking. For more information, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

    Read Also: Oxygen Desaturation During Sleep

    How Doctors Diagnose Insomnia And The Information They Need To Know

    If you start experiencing interruptions to sleep on a regular basis, its time to loop in your doctor. Your family physician is a good place to start. If youre having any issues with sleep, you need to bring it up with your doctor, says Sheila Tsai, MD, a pulmonologist and the section head of sleep medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver.

    How You Can Treat Insomnia Yourself

    Do You Have Insomnia? Tips To Fall Asleep Faster.

    Insomnia usually gets better by changing your sleeping habits.

    Watching television or using devices such as a smartphone right before going to bed can result in poor sleep. You should also avoid smoking, or drink alcohol, tea or coffee at least 6 hours before going to bed.

    Try to:

    • go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
    • relax at least 1 hour before bed for example, take a bath or read a book
    • only go to bed when you feel tired
    • make sure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable
    • exercise regularly during the day

    The following might also contribute towards a bad nights sleep:

    • eating a big meal late at night
    • exercising at least 4 hours before bed
    • napping during the day
    • driving when you feel sleepy
    • sleep in after a bad night’s sleep stick to your regular sleeping hours instead

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    How Much Sleep Do Most People Need

    Most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep per night but the amount of sleep needed to function at your best varies between individuals. The quality of your rest matters just as much as the quantity. Tossing and turning and repeatedly awakening is as bad for your health as being unable to fall asleep.

    Can My Insomnia Be Cured

    Absolutely. It may not be easy though, as curing insomnia often means improving your sleep hygiene and establishing habits that are more conducive to good sleep. And habits, especially routines you follow every day, can be tough to break.

    But it is possible. And according to Aouad, each small step you take to establish better sleep is an important one.

    I think people underestimate how much making small changes to their habits can be beneficial, Aouad says. Even though those habits can be hard to change, gradually changing them over time can really improve someones sleep.

    Also Check: How Does The Fitbit Alta Track Sleep

    Severe Insomnia When Is It Time To Worry

    Severe Insomnia is not a true medical diagnosis. It is a condition with symptoms that vary from person to person.

    Why? Because each individual who describes their own insomnia as severe is using their own subjective experiences, background and thoughts to create that definition. One persons severe insomnia might be anothers slighty worse than normal insomnia. It is a general term with variable interpretations.

    Ill give you my definition of severe insomnia as

    • Insomnia that has lasted more than a month.
    • Involves at least three or more completely sleepless nights per week.
    • When sleep does come, it is restless and doesnt last long.
    • Daytime functioning is definitely impaired.
    • There is little sign of improvement using sleep hygiene methods.
    • Medications help very little or the dosage must be increased often to still be effective.
    • There is no known physical or mental cause of the sleeplessness .

    Have I ever personally had severe insomnia? Not by my own definition.

    I have had what I call serious chronic insomnia, and Ive had severe secondary insomnia but no, I havent had severe insomnia. Why? Because I have always been able to respond to medication, and I have always been able to link my insomnia to a cause either physical or mental .

    If I changed my definition of severe insomnia by deleting the last two symptoms in my list , then I can say that yes, I have suffered from it.

    What Is Keep You Up At Night

    Can

    Are you having problems falling asleep? Do you find yourself waking up multiple times during the night? Contact Sleep Health Solutions of Ohio to request comprehensive sleep testing and begin recovering from the sleep disorder that is keeping you awake at night.

    Dr. Rosenberg is specialized in sleep medicine and neurology. He is also certified by the American Board of Sleep Disorders Medicine and the American Board of Psychology and Neurology. Patients with a wide range of issues are referred for sleep studies and he works together with them to find effective solutions that fit their lifestyle.

    Read Also: Can The Iwatch Track Sleep

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is The Gold

    If improving sleep hygiene and other lifestyle changes alone dont help with your sleep, the next step is cognitive behavioral therapy to improve sleep and reverse chronic insomnia. Aouad says its a better option than medication.

    Medication will help you as long as its in your system, so thats a day or two, she says. While there are some appropriate uses for prescription sleep aids , they can come with extremely dangerous side effects, and they tend to be highly addictive. The benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy, a specific type of counseling to help with the anxiety around sleep that comes with chronic insomnia, have been shown to far outlast medication, Aouad explains.

    According to a study published in May 2012 in the journal BMC Family Practice, cognitive behavioral therapy is better at improving sleep efficiency than common drugs, and led to an extra 30 to 60 minutes in sleep time when the two treatment strategies were compared.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on teaching techniques to help you relax, control your breathing and mood, slow down your racing mind, and get to sleep. Really, the basis of it is providing education, talking about sleep drive and teaching people things like stimulus control and avoiding anything stimulating around bedtime, Aouad says. Think of it as reteaching your body how to sleep.

    Sometimes Lifestyle Changes Alone Can Help With Insomnia

    For a mild case of insomnia thats only been a problem for a few days or weeks, doctors will first likely recommend making a few lifestyle changes to promote better sleep. Rita Aouad, MD, an assistant professor of sleep medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, says she always starts with tweaking a persons sleep hygiene, the daily habits and routines you follow that affect sleep.

    Good sleep hygiene practices that promote healthy sleep includes:

    • Sticking to a Sleep Schedule This means going to bed and waking up around the same time no matter if its Wednesday or Sunday.
    • Avoiding Anything That Could Mess With Your Ability to Fall Asleep This means substance as caffeine and tobacco, for instance, that can stay in your system for eight hours. And dont rely on a night cap, either. Some people think alcohol can help with sleep onset, but it actually fragments your sleep, Dr. Aouad says.
    • Not Exercising Too Late in the Day Ideally, youll hit the gym more than three hours before bedtime, Aouad says, otherwise the activity can stimulate your body and make it tougher to fall asleep.
    • Limiting Daytime Naps to No More Than 30 Minutes Aouad suggests this.
    • Turning Off Electronics At Least One Hour Before Bedtime
    • Reserving the Bed Solely for Sleep and Sex
    • Creating a Sleep-Promoting Environment Thats Quiet, Dark, and Cool

    Recommended Reading: Obstructive Sleep Apnea Secondary To Ptsd

    Can Melatonin Help Me Sleep

    Your body produces a hormone called melatonin that promotes sleep. Some people take melatonin supplements as a sleep aid. But theres no proof that these supplements work. Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesnt regulate supplements the same as medications, you should talk to your healthcare provider before taking one.

    How Can I Sleep Better

    What Its Like To Have Insomnia
    • Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol, especially in the hours before bedtime.
    • Avoid heavy meals or strenuous exercise shortly before going to bed.
    • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
    • Regular daytime exercise helps you feel more relaxed and tired at bedtime.

    This section will discuss five topics which can help to promote better sleep:

    • Understanding some facts.
    • Daytime exercise.
    • Psychological treatments called cognitive and behavioural therapies.

    In effect, these can be used in a step-wise fashion. You need only go on to the next step if the previous step is not very helpful, but each step requires a greater degree of effort.

    Read Also: Filing A Va Claim For Sleep Apnea

    When To See A Doctor

    If youâve tried several insomnia remedies and they arenât working, it may be time to see a doctor. Your doctor may give you a physical exam and will ask you questions about your sleep habits and patterns.

    You should see a doctor if your insomnia lasts over a period of months or if itâs affecting your daily life. Your doctor may suggest treatments for insomnia like a sleep aid or behavioral therapy to help you learn better habits and change the way you think about sleep.

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    Theres No One Test For Insomnia

    Currently, there is no specific diagnostic test for insomnia. Instead, your primary care provider or a sleep specialist will use a variety of tools to evaluate your symptoms and determine the best treatment approach. Tools that can be helpful in measuring insomnia symptoms include:

    Using all of these tools gives doctors a picture of the factors affecting your sleep and helps them determine if there might be an underlying psychological or medical problem behind your sleep trouble that needs to be addressed, or what type of help you need.

    One critical component of diagnosing insomnia is accurately and comprehensively measuring the problems the condition is causing so that all of those symptoms can be addressed in a treatment plan. For instance, if theres an unidentified underlying medical condition, say, arthritis, thats contributing to your insomnia, any amount of behavioral therapy you do may be futile if no ones addressing the chronic pain keeping you awake at night.

    If you have sleep problems, here are some topics you may want to bring up with your doctor, according to the National Sleep Foundation:

    Recommended Reading: Why Isnt My Fitbit Tracking My Sleep

    Treatment Of Chronic Insomnia

    A number of at-home and professional treatment options are available for chronic insomnia. Treatment will depend on the cause of your insomnia and may involve medication or therapy to address an underlying condition.

    Along with treating any existing conditions, your doctor may recommend one or a combination of treatment options for chronic insomnia.

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