Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep. In many cases, it can be relieved with a few simple behavioral changes. Sometimes, medication is needed but usually behavioral changes should be tried first.
Talk with your health care provider if any of the following symptoms occur often enough to affect your function during the day:
Difficulty falling asleep
Excessive sleepiness during the day
History of falling asleep during the day at inappropriate times
Nightmares or disturbing thoughts that keep you awake
Pain, frequent urination, or unusual sensations that keep you awake
Significant trouble getting out of bed in the morning
Sleep that does not refresh you
Waking up several times throughout the night
Waking up early in the morning
Here are some simple tips to get a better night's sleep:
If possible, wake up at the same time each day.
Avoid performing activities such as eating and working in your bed.
Avoid strenuous activity 2 hours before going to bed.
Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages in the evening.
Avoid eating heavy meals at least 2 hours before going to sleep.
Develop a bedtime routine that includes calming, relaxing activities.
Make sure your sleep environment is quiet, dark, and is at a comfortable temperature.
Don't go to bed more than 8 hours before you expect to start your day.
Do something relaxing just before bedtime (such as reading or taking a bath) so that you don't dwell on worrisome issues. Watching TV or using a computer may be stimulating to some people and disturb their ability to fall asleep. If you can't fall asleep within 30 minutes, get up and move to another room and engage in a quiet activity until you feel sleepy.
One method of preventing worries from keeping you awake is to keep a journal before going to bed. List all issues that worry you. By this method you transfer your worries from your thoughts to paper, leaving your mind quieter and more ready to fall asleep.
While 7 - 8 hours a night is recommended for most people, children and teenagers need more. Older people tend to do fine with less sleep at night, but may still require approximately 8 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period. The quality of sleep is as important as how much sleep you get.
Andrew Schriber, MD, FCCP, Specialist in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Virtua Memorial Hospital, Mount Holly, New Jersey. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.