Loosing Sleep

By: Michael Appleman, M.S.


According to the National Sleep Foundation, two-thirds of the people in the United States suffer from sleep quality problems. Insomnia is defined as difficulties falling asleep and/or staying asleep. More than half of these people experience recurrent bouts of insomnia or waking up too early.

Stress, pain, discomfort, and disruption are the major sleep bandits. It has been seen that colds, allergies, indigestion, snoring, street and household noise, temperature, and light can all hinder your ability to acquire a good night's rest.

Other disturbances include:

   1. Sleep Apnea: A breathing disorder that causes frequent awakenings
   2. Restless Leg Syndrome: Excessive leg movement due to creeping or tingling sensations in the legs.

      Sleep Strategies

First you might want to try going to bed fifteen minutes earlier each night, until you are naturally falling a sleep and waking up when you need to. In time you may see yourself waking up with out an alarm clock. When this occurs you should begin to realize that you are sleeping satisfactorily.

If you are unable to go to sleep earlier at night, you might want to think about taking a short early afternoon snooze. It has been shown that you should not sleep more than one hour during the afternoon. Otherwise you body may not feel it needs to sleep at night.

Do not forget that your bed and bedroom are important sleep tools. Make sure that you have a relaxing and supportive mattress and that your bedroom is not too bright, dry or humid. You may want to put your clock out of site if it makes you restless watching the minutes tick by while you are tossing and turning in bed.

During the hours prior to going to sleep, you might want to stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, or caffeinated products, like coffee, tea and chocolate. It is also good to set an exercise program into your schedule. It has been seen that it is best not to do your exercise three hours before you are to go to sleep. This is because your body may be moving faster and not able you to fall asleep. Also going to sleep and waking up at the same time each night and day may help your body to become use to a schedule.

If you cannot fall a sleep within thirty minutes you may want to get up and go do something relaxing. It has been seen that a relaxing activity does help to clear your mind of on any worries and may help you to fall asleep when you go back to bed.

Air travel can cause you to have jet lag. This is a condition when your body biologically is thrown off its time schedule. You may feel like going to sleep at lunchtime or wanting to wake up at 3 am. Below is a way that you might be able to beat this problem when you travel:

   1. If your trip is eastbound, go to bed earlier and get up earlier for several days prior to the trip.
   2. If your trip is westbound, then you should go to bed later and get up later for several days prior to the trip.
   3. Change your watch to the destination time zone when you get on the plane. This way you can start helping your body and mind to adjust to the time zone of your destination.
   4. Select flights that have the early evening arrivals and stay up until 10 PM local time.
   5. When you get to your destination, avoid heavy meals. Taking a snack has shown to be better for your system during the change over time.
   6. Avoid alcohol or caffeine for at least three to four hours before bedtime.
   7. Avoid heavy exercise near bedtime. Some light exercise earlier in the day is fine.
   8. Whenever possible, try to get outside in the sunlight. This is a strong stimulant for regulating your biological clock.
   9. You should try to remove or reduce possible sleep disturbances in your room. Examples are, use ear plugs to damper the sounds, turn off your TV's, music and radios.

It is a good idea to discuss your sleeping problems with our doctor. If making the simple lifestyle changes do not work, your doctor may suggest sleep medication. There are over the counter and prescription medication. Before taking the over the counter dietary supplements or medications, you may want to speak to your doctor about your medical condition and taking these sleep aids.