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I Can't Sleep - Now What?

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We understand that good sleep promotes good health. Sleep is the fuel of life. We require various types and depths of sleep-in different amounts and at other times throughout the night. According to research, 70% of adults in America report poor sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night. The National Institute of Health predicts that America’s sleep debt is on the rise and that by the middle of the 21st century, more than 100 million Americans will have difficulty falling asleep. So, you can’t sleep – now what?

Believe it or not, sleeping can take some training. If you’re too engaged at work or live a demanding lifestyle, you may push back on going to bed at a regular time and deprive yourself of sleep. There are many forms of insomnia. You may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or going back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. Why does this happen? Many things can affect your sleep. According to NPR, stress, travel, poor sleep habits, medication and even age can affect your sleep.

Tips for falling asleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are ways to help with each of these patterns:

  • Establishing a wind-down routine before bed can greatly improve your health and well-being. Plan at least 30 minutes each night, dimming the lights and engaging in a relaxing activity like reading a book. This gentle transition can help prepare your mind and body for restful sleep.
  • While beneficial, the digital world can often challenge our sleep patterns. The light from electronic devices such as laptops, phones and tablets can signal our brains to stay alert, disrupting our natural sleep cycle. Therefore, it's important to disconnect from these devices an hour or so before bed.
  • Breathing or relaxation exercises can also be a practical part of your wind-down routine. These practices can help calm your mind and body, preparing you for a good night's sleep.
  • Occasionally, you may find yourself unable to fall asleep even after being in bed for 20 minutes. Instead of lying awake, move to another space in your home and engage in a relaxing activity. This approach prevents the creation of an unhealthy association between your sleeping environment and wakefulness.
  • Consistency is key when it comes to sleep routines. Set your alarm to wake up simultaneously every day, including weekends. This routine helps "train" your body's clock, making it easier to fall asleep at night.
  • Lastly, avoid consuming coffee, tea, soda, and other caffeinated drinks, as well as alcohol, before sleep. These substances can disrupt your sleep cycles, preventing you from getting the needed rest.

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can promote better sleep, leading to improved mood, cognition and overall wellness. If you wake up in the middle of the night, stay in bed and listen to music or a book on tape with the lights off to help transition your body back to sleep. If you continue to have problems sleeping, you may need to visit your doctor.

Can I use melatonin

When addressing sleep issues, over-the-counter sleep aids like melatonin or herbal supplements such as valerian root or chamomile tea can serve as beneficial initial additions to one's routine. Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, is commonly used to help relieve sleep troubles and may be effective for people experiencing jet lag or shift work-related sleep problems. Similarly, valerian root and chamomile tea are natural remedies known for their calming properties, often used to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

However, it's important to exercise caution and consult a healthcare professional before incorporating any herbal or supplement medication into your regimen. While these remedies are generally considered safe for short-term use, they may interact with certain medicines or medical conditions. Additionally, responses to these substances can vary, and a healthcare provider can offer personalized guidance based on your specific health needs and circumstances.

By partnering with your doctor and discussing your sleep concerns openly, you can ensure that any treatment or supplement you choose is safe, effective, and tailored to support your overall health and well-being.

Learn more about Norman Vince Hill, MD

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