Is Insomnia Controlling You?

Published on: March 22, 2021 

While the rest of the world is sleeping, many people have trouble falling asleep due to insomnia. Sleep problems (insomnia) may come and go for most of us, but approximately 10 percent of Americans struggle with chronic insomnia. The negative impacts of insomnia are many, ranging from fatigue, poor memory, and low motivation to an increased risk of depression and mood disturbances. Not getting enough sleep can also lead to weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It can even make you look older.

Many experts have different definitions of insomnia, says Johns Hopkins sleep expert Rachel Salas, M.D. But insomnia is basically a condition where people struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep for at least 3-4 hours. If it happens at least 3 nights a week and lasts for at least 1 month, you may be experiencing what sleep experts call persistent insomnia disorder.

Because of the toll insomnia can take on your mental health and well-being, it’s worth recognizing the symptoms and getting help from your healthcare providers. If you struggle with daytime sleepiness, irritability, problems concentrating, and forgetfulness, you could have an insomnia disorder.

Insomnia Causes

There are many possible causes of insomnia. Psychological and emotional issues, such as stress, depression, and anxiety, can leave you tossing and turning. Certain medications may also cause sleep issues. These can include SSRI antidepressants, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, blood pressure, and allergy medications. Or you could have a medical condition such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome that keeps you from sleeping soundly.

Insomnia Treatments

Treating insomnia first requires understanding what’s causing it. For example, if a medication you’re taking is causing it, switching to a different drug may help.

Before resorting to sleeping medications that can leave you feeling groggy the next day, experts recommend trying non-pharmaceutical strategies first to address insomnia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help many people overcome insomnia by changing their thought patterns, decreasing anxiety, and adopting healthy sleep behaviors. Following are some strategies based on CBT for insomnia. 

Adapt a Consistent Sleep Pattern

Maintain a strict schedule of sleeping and waking throughout the week, including the weekends, recommends Dr. Salas. While most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, getting a consistent amount of quality sleep maybe even more important than quantity, she says. Set a bedtime and wake-up time for yourself to train your body’s biological clock. This should eventually result in a productive day rather than an exhaustive one.

Get Your Brain Ready for Sleep

You can’t force your brain to fall asleep on command as you do when you press the off button on your computer to shut it down. Instead, your brain needs help to slowly shift to sleep, and this mainly depends on your surroundings.

  • Adapt a pre-sleep routine before going to bed. For example, taking a shower and putting on sleepwear can signal your brain that you’re heading to bed.
  • Avoid activities that can keep you awake during the night, such as smoking, drinking caffeinated soda or coffee, or eating a heavy meal near bedtime.
  • Resolve worries or conflicts. If you need to pay your bills or settle an argument with a family member, do it during the day so you can go to bed with a clear head.
  • Avoid all light at bedtime. Turn off your electronic devices at least 40 minutes before bedtime. The blue light emitted by electronic devices keeps your brain primed for wakefulness.
  • Listen to some calm and soothing music. This will encourage your brain to let go of stress and fall asleep.
  • If there is ambient noise outside of your control, consider using a white noise device that plays beach waves, rain, or other soothing sounds.

If you continue to struggle with insomnia after trying these bedtime strategies, remember that professional help is available. Harmony United Psychiatric Care has a large team of mental health professionals experienced in treating Insomnia, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Our Telepsychiatry service makes it easy for you to get help from the comfort and privacy of your home. We’ll get you scheduled quickly so you can start feeling better soon. To schedule an appointment, visit our Book Appointment page.

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