Health Notes - Insomnia
By Ellen S. Mullen M.D.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two part series concerning insomnia. Dr. Mullen offers tips on how to pinpoint the possible reasons you can’t get a good night’s rest.
Insomnia can be a miserable ailment. It can exacerbate other illnesses and make chronic pain worse. Insomnia can be caused by increased stress, pain, medications, caffeine, nicotine, depression, a change in work hours/shifts or outside disturbances such as a partner who snores or children awakening during the night.
Not sleeping affects us physically and mentally and can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. So how much sleep does a person need? It depends on the age of the person. Children typically need more sleep than adults and older persons often will sleep less hours at night but may take daytime naps. The key to figuring out how much sleep you need is to see if you are rested in the morning when you awake.
A sleep diary can often be helpful in discovering what may be causing your insomnia and how to cure it. This involves recording daily what time you go to bed and how long it takes to fall asleep. You also need to record if you awaken during the night and for how long. Then also keep good notes as to what time you get up in the morning and if you are well rested. This is good information to bring to your doctor. It is also helpful to note if you are constantly worried about something when you cannot sleep. Anxiety and stress commonly causes insomnia and the treatment for this may be different than for insomnia.
Developing a good bedtime routine is essential to curing insomnia. It is important to go to bed at the same time every night and awaken at the same time every morning, even on days off. Take a hot bath at night and drinking a warm decaffeinated drink will increase your body temperature. As your body cools it becomes sleepy. Use the bedroom for sleeping and not to do work or exercise. This makes your mind adjust to a sleep mode when you enter your bedroom.
Look for the second part of the series on insomnia in next month’s issue.