Better Sleep: Insomnia

Insomnia as a condition characterized by any combination of difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or awakening too early in the morning and feeling unrefreshed.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost half of adult Americans reports they experienced difficulty falling asleep at one point in their lives.  Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, affecting about 12% of the population at any given time, or about 32 million people.  More women than men are affected.  Older adults become less efficient with her sleep and can experience more frequent insomnia.  Transient, or short-term insomnia, can often be treated quite easily or may resolve spontaneously on its own.  Chronic, or long-lasting insomnia, is often more difficult to resolve.  It is often associated with many other medical and psychological illnesses, including depression.  It can also occur in patients with other sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, (difficulty breathing during sleep with associated snoring), and narcolepsy (an illness associated with excessive daytime sleepiness).

Symptoms of insomnia may include anxiety, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, drowsiness, forgetfulness, irritability, headache, low energy, weight gain and increased blood pressure. Often, treatment entails simply embracing better sleep hygiene, or better sleep habits.  Often, only a brief course of over-the-counter or prescription medication is necessary.  For chronic insomnia, the best treatment is often a combination of medications and cognitive behavioral therapy (relaxation techniques and reinforcement of better sleep habits).  A sleep specialist can advise what is best for your individual case, including the risks and rationale of various medications and supplementations.

In order to ensure good sleep, it is important to have good sleep habits.  Often simple changes in your daily routine can improve your sleep.

Here are a few simple tips:

•           Avoid caffeine within 10 hours of bedtime.  Avoid alcohol and smoking, especially one or 2 hours before bedtime.

•           Exercise regularly.  Strenuous exercise should be avoided 3 hours before bedtime.

•           Don’t take naps, or limit them to 30 min.

•           Establish pre-sleep rituals, like a warm bath or reading.

•           Go to sleep only when you are sleepy and use your bed for sleep only, not as an office or place to watch television.

•           Get up about the same time every day, regardless of when you fall asleep.

•           If you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed fretting.  After 10-15 min., go to another room and read until you feel sleepy.

Contact your physician if you:

•           Remain unable to fall asleep.

•           Can’t stay asleep.

•           Sleep at night but consistently feel sleepy during the day. You may have a separate medical problem that is preventing normal sleep patterns.

-Dr. Tim Grant M.D. – Neurologist and Sleep Specialist

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One thought on “Better Sleep: Insomnia

  1. Pingback: Tips to sleep well for over 50s - Columbia Aged Care

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