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Battling Insomnia- Getting Back Your Forty Winks

by Brie Latini

Everyone has a sleepless night every now and then. For some, this is something that can be recovered with ease- maybe a nap or an opportunity to sleep in a bit and they are back on track. For others, sleeplessness can be a chronic part of life. If you are finding that your sleep patterns do not leave you feeling rested the next day, it could be time to take some sleep-focused actions into consideration.

Insomnia, or the lack of sleep, can have any number of causes. Stress, medications, unhealthy sleep habits, and poor eating/drinking can all contribute to trouble with your nightly trip to Dreamland. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is important to understand the cause of your insomnia in order to best combat it.

The first step in overcoming insomnia is examining your sleep hygiene practices. The National Sleep Foundation suggests:

• Creating wind-down time for at least 30 minutes before bed. This can consist of reading (Ditch the screens for a REAL book, magazine or newspaper!) or listening to music. Dim the lights and pull down the shades to let your body know that it is nighttime.

• Move any electronics away from your bed. The light from screen can be distracting and can contribute to sleeplessness.

• Set your alarm and wake up at the same time each day- even on weekends. It sounds like a drag, but this practice will help your body get used to a regular sleep/wake schedule.

• If you are lying awake for twenty minutes or more, get out of bed. Take part in a gentle, restful activity and return to bed when you again feel tired. Lying in bed, tossing and turning, will only exacerbate your feelings of sleeplessness and frustration. Keeping your bed a Sleep Only Zone will help your body understand that the bed is a place for comfort and rest.

• Avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings. Stick to decaf coffee, teas and sodas once lunch is done.

If these interventions do not bring some relief, it may be time to consider having a talk with your physician. Your doctor may ask you to keep a sleep log, which will allow for an examination of your sleep patterns, check your bloodwork, or to submit to a sleep study. A medical examination can help find the root cause of insomnia and help your physician best create a course of action to bring you healthy sleep. Treatments can range from light therapy (spending scheduled parts of your day sitting under light that mimics light from the outdoors) to prescription or over-the-counter sleep medications.

With proper care and commitment, sleep troubles can be a temporary burden. Practicing good sleep hygiene and speaking with your doctor can make you and your pillow a happy couple once again!

For more information, visit The National Sleep Foundation at sleepfoundation.org. This article is not a substitute for discussing sleep issues with a physician.


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