Having Trouble Sleeping?
Sleep Disorders: A Whole Other Ball of Wax
- Insomnia: Many adults will complain of difficulty falling or staying asleep or waking too early at some point in their lives.
- Sleep apnea: Noisy, irregular breathing can signal this treatable sleep disorder. In severe cases, the sleeper wakes several hundred times during the night due to a partial obstruction that temporarily blocks air flow. Untreated sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and an increased risk of diabetes.
What Is Insomnia?
Why Sleep Becomes Elusive
- Pain: People with arthritis may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because of painful joints. If you suffer from arthritis, ask your doctor about treatment for the pain.
- Heartburn: Nighttime heartburn may cause symptoms of wheezing and chronic cough, with repeated awakenings and daytime sleepiness. Raising the head of the bed may alleviate symptoms, or medicine may be needed.
- Respiratory ailments: Asthma, chronic interstitial lung disease, and various neuromuscular diseases can cause awakening.
- Menopause: The hot flashes and breathing changes associated with menopause appear to disturb sleep. In one study, hot flashes were associated with arousals once every eight minutes on average.
- Medicine: Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medicines can cause insomnia or drowsiness, and if changing the time the drug is taken could help overcome these problems.
- Going to the bathroom: An enlarged prostate or other conditions cause an increased need to get up and go to the bathroom through the night. These multiple trips can disturb your sleep. If you are going to the bathroom multiple times per night, discuss this with your doctor.
- Chemical changes: Production of the hormone melatonin, which influences sleep and wakefulness, changes as we get older.
Good Sleep Habits
- Go to bed at the same time each night.
- Reserve your bed for sleep and sex. Watch television or read in another room.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes, especially in the afternoon and evening.
- Do not lie in bed watching the clock. If you cannot fall asleep within half an hour, get up and listen to calming music or read.
- Try to get some exercise every day—but not too close to bedtime.
- Limit naps and do not nap longer than 30 minutes.
- Take a walk outside during the day.
- Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room. Wear earplugs or eyeshades to block out light and sound.
- Sleep on comfortable bedding.
- Limit drinking liquids a few hours before bedtime.
- Do not go to bed hungry or overstuffed. Both may cause physical discomfort.
Sleep Medicines and Herbal Remedies
American Academy of Sleep Medicine http://www.aasmnet.org/
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/
National Institute on Aging http://www.nia.nih.gov/
National Sleep Foundation http://www.sleepfoundation.org/
Better Sleep Council Canada http://www.bettersleep.ca/
Canadian Sleep Society http://www.canadiansleepsociety.com/
Bradley TD, Floras JS. Sleep apnea and heart failure: Part I: obstructive sleep apnea. Circulation. Apr 2003;107(12):1671-8.
Brennan R, Jan JE, Lyons CJ. Light, dark, and melatonin: emerging evidence for the importance of melatonin in ocular physiology. Eye. Sep 22, 2006.
Can't sleep? what to know about insomnia. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/insomnia-and-sleep. Accessed July 17, 2012.
Insomnia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated July 9, 2012. Accessed July 17, 2012.
Morin CM, Koetter U, Bastien C, Ware JC, Wooten V. Valerian-hops combination and diphenhydramine for treating insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Sleep. Nov 1, 2005;28(11):1465-1471.
Tasali E, Mohkalesi B, VanCauter E. Obstructive sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes: interacting epidemics. Chest. 2008;133(2):496-506.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 07/2012
- Update Date: 07/17/2012