By Colleen Bingham, M.Ed.

How can something so basic be so problematic for so many people?  Statistics tell us that on any given night, one in three people have a problem falling, or staying, asleep.  Technically, insomnia is a lack of sleep so severe that it interferes with a person’s ability to function normally during the day.

There are three basic kinds of insomnia:  sleep onset problems; night waking problems; and early morning waking problems.  People may experience any or all of these issues.  People with stress or anxiety commonly experience onset issues and/or night waking, and people with major depression often experience early morning waking as well as trouble falling asleep.  Insomnia can be a symptom that something else is wrong such as stress, physical pain, illness or another sleep disorder.  Lifestyle habits such as keeping irregular hours, or the anticipation, either positive or negative, of a particular event, can cause insomnia.  Sometimes sleep problems that emerge when people are apprehensive about a specific event, or upset by a crisis, cam turn into chronic sleep issues.  In these cases, each night of poor sleep reinforces their worries about not sleeping, which leaves them anxious and exhausted and set up for more insomnia.  This is often called ‘learned insomnia’.

Although the treatment for insomnia is very individualized, keeping good sleep habits, often known as ‘sleep hygiene’, usually forms a basis for treatment.  Good sleep hygiene includes having a consistent pre-bedtime routine to signal your body to begin to prepare for sleep.

Other helpful guidelines include:

  1.  No food or alcohol after about 7p.m. (digestion can contribute to night waking).
  2. No caffeine of any sort (coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chocolate) from mid-afternoon to bedtime.
  3. Finish any exercise at least one hour before bedtime.
  4. No napping during the day.
  5. Keep a strict bedtime and waking time.  This must be the same for weekends as it is for weekdays to avoid “catching up” on sleep.  Lights must go out at exactly the same time every night and you must get out of bed at exactly the same time each morning.
  6. Turn around any bedside clocks so they are not easily visible.
  7. Use your bed for sleep and sex only.

For further information, please contact our office.

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