Insomnia

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TOSSING AND TURNING AT NIGHT? SLEEP DISORDERS CAN HAVE AN IMPACT ON YOUR OVERALL HEALTH, BUT THEY ARE TREATABLE.

Have you ever had trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting restful sleep even though you had the opportunity? Sluggish and irritable insomniacs understand all too well that problems with sleep can affect your work and family life, make you grumpy and just make you feel yucky all day.

Insomnia begins as an acute condition but quickly can become chronic and often debilitating. Those with insomnia typically complain or grumble about their quality of sleep. Many report an inconsistent duration of sleep. Often, they feel like they don't sleep at all or that their sleep is light and not restful. Some may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

A lack of quality sleep can lead to problems with attention, concentration, mood and memory. More than one-third of adults report symptoms of insomnia. Almost 20 percent of those people might have an insomniac disorder.

Insomnia can be caused by a variety of reasons: physical disorders, substance abuse, circadian rhythm disturbances, psychological factors, poor sleep environments, and poor lifestyle habits. One way to assess if you may have insomnia or a sleep problem is to begin to keep a sleep Journal or log over the course of a month. The information in the journal should include when and how often you nap, length of sleep, hours of wakefulness, and feelings upon awakening about quality of sleep. Journal information alone can help determine if your insomnia is an acute or chronic problem that may need treatment.

But there is good news: Insomnia is treatable.

Treatment options 

As a first line of defense, people suffering from insomnia will turn to sleeping pills or other over-the-counter medications. These are fine for short-term effectiveness, but there are other treatment options that are equally as effective and much safer.

One of the most effective methods of treatment for insomnia is to improve your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene includes sleep habits and behaviors that affect caliber and quality of sleep.

Here are a few good sleep hygiene tips:

  • Sleep only as much as you need to feel refreshed during the day and restrict your time spent lying in bed.
  • Train yourself to use the bedroom for sleep and sexual activity only — do not work, hang out, watch television, etc., in the bedroom.
  • Avoid long naps.
  • Cut down on caffeine products before bed.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature, not too cold or warm.
  • Get up at the same time seven days a week to regulate your biological clock. Sleeping in on weekends might disrupt your natural sleep rhythms.
  • Eat regular meals. Being too hungry or too full can affect sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom free from excessive light and noise.
  • Put away technology at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. The bright screens on many devices signal to your brain that it is a time of wakefulness, not rest.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is another treatment method that is evidence-based and highly effective at treating sleep disorders. It involves attending at least one session with a trained professional who can help improve sleep habits and behaviors.

CBT is a structured program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems, with habits skills and strategies that promote better sleep. The goal of CBT is to help overcome the underlying causes of sleep problems.

There are various CBT interventions and skills that, when practiced, are highly effective in helping sleep.

Examples of these techniques include:

  • Relaxation training, which can help calm your mind and body.
  • Skills that address twisted thinking and cognitive distortions.
  • Skills to help manage worry.

Keep in mind that insomnia isn’t the only reason you might be tossing and turning at night. Sleep apnea is a common — but often overlooked — risk factor in cardiovascular health. When thinking about risk factors for heart disease, quality of sleep is often overlooked.

“Sleep apnea is characterized by repeated episodes of breathing cessation during sleep,” Dr. Frank Barbieri, whose practice focuses on sleep apnea and treatment options, says. “It affects 12 million to 18 million Americans, which is 4 percent of middle-aged men and 2 percent of middle-aged women. This condition becomes more common as you get older, and at least one out of 10 people older than 65 may have sleep apnea.”

A person may be more at risk for sleep apnea if they are overweight or if they snore loudly. People who have high blood pressure, a decreased airway size, a large neck or collar size, or a family history of sleep apnea may also be at risk.

Proper treatment can help minimize and even eliminate the symptoms of sleep apnea. Available treatments include lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, limiting alcohol, avoiding medications and sleeping on your side rather than your back.

A CPAP mask is used for moderate to severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea. The mask is attached to a machine that blows air from the mask and your throat. Evidence suggests that a custom-fitted mouthpiece may also be an excellent treatment option.

The takeaway message about sleep is to take steps to improve your sleep habits and sleep hygiene. Getting a good night’s sleep is a prominent component to your overall health and well-being as well as cognitive functioning.