10 Reasons You Can’t Sleep and What To Do About Them

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Published: June 17, 2014


Getting enough sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, as important as nutritious food and exercise. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep at night.  Insomnia is short or poor quality sleep, that affects functioning during the day. It can be trouble falling asleep, waking up a lot with trouble returning to sleep, waking up too early in the morning, or feeling like you haven’t slept at all.

Insomnia is a very common problem, affecting both mental and physical health. It can make you feel tired all day, irritable and depressed. It may lead to trouble thinking clearly and concentrating. Chronic insomnia increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Acute insomnia is in response to a stressful or traumatic life event and can last a few days to a few weeks. Chronic insomnia means sleep problems occur at least three nights a week, for more than a month. It doesn’t take long before you’re worrying about worrying keeping you awake. These are the top 10 causes of insomnia:

  1. Depression and/or anxiety
  2. Depression and/or anxiety
  3. Chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia or arthritis
  4. Gastrointestinal problems, such as heartburn
  5. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea
  6. Stroke
  7. Alzheimer’s disease
  8. Menopause
  9. Some medicines, such as those used to treat allergies, asthma, colds, or heart problems
  10. Caffiene, tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs
  11. Poor sleep environment, such as too much light or noise

10 Ways to Sleep Better

  1. Keep a consistent schedule – go to bed at the same time each night.
  2. Avoid caffiene, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day or evening.
  3. Get regular physical activity, but not within three hours of bedtime.
  4. Don’t eat a heavy meal within 2-3 hours of bedtime; a light snack at bedtime may help you fall asleep.
  5. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool; a fan or “white noise” machine can help.
  6. Follow a routine to wind down before sleep, such as reading a book, or listening to music.
  7. If you don’t feel drowsy or can’t sleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed; read or do a quiet activity until you’re sleepy, then return to bed; you may need to repeat this step.
  8. If you lie awake worrying, make a “to do” list before bed; you may rest more easily when you have a plan for those worries.
  9. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  10. Avoid napping. If you must nap, limit rest to 30 minutes; don’t nap after 3 pm.

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See your doctor about insomnia that persists, especially with daytime symptoms, BEFORE buying or using an over-the-counter (OTC) sleep medicine. If your doctor suggests an OTC or prescription medication, read and follow the instructions.

Sleep medicine can have potentially deadly effects while awake – confusion, light-headedness, drowsiness, amnesia, and sudden dropping off to sleep can occur. When it’s time to stop using sleep medicine, see your doctor. Some medicines must be stopped gradually.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

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About Faith A. Coleman, MD

Dr. Coleman is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and holds a BA in journalism from UNM. She completed her family practice residency at Wm. Beaumont Hospital, Troy and Royal Oak, MI, consistently ranked among the United States Top 100 Hospitals by US News and World Report. Her experience includes faculty appointments to a family practice residency and three medical schools, as well as Director of Women's and Children's Health Promotion Programs with the NE Texas Public Health District.

Dr. Coleman is the Expert on Gifted Children for the New York Times, parenting writer for Demand Media Studios, as well as health and medical writer for several online information services. She writes professional management material for health care providers and about the personal experience of being a physician. Faith treasures most the role of mother. Her passions include the well-being and education of children and families. She doesn't tweet, but welcomes email: facoleman8889@yahoo.com.

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