Have you ever experienced the frustration of laying in bed trying to sleep but you can’t calm your mind? Well, you are not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 30-40% of American adults report that they have had symptoms of insomnia within the last 12 months, and 10-15 percent of adults claim to have chronic insomnia. I wanted to take a minute to talk about this issue and how making a few lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
We all know that sleep is utterly essential to our health. If you have experienced a bout of sleeplessness, you can identify with the resulting fatigue and cognitive decline the next day. Chronic sleep disorders, however, can cause even broader health issues. Sleep deprivation studies on rats reveal slower wound healing, decreased white blood counts and impaired ability to form new memories. Sleep studies on humans show a link between lack of sleep and increased risk of vascular disease, depression, weight gain, hypertension, and chronic pain. We need sleep to reset our nervous system into maintenance and repair mode just like you need to recharge your i-phone.
What is chronic insomnia?
However, what is the difference between occasional sleep disturbances and chronic insomnia? Chronic insomnia, ” is marked by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or waking up too early. If it takes you thirty minutes or more to fall asleep, or you’re awake for thirty minutes or more during the night at least three times a week,” for a month or more-you’re likely suffering from insomnia (SleepDisorders…com)
It’s ultimately not so much the amount of sleep but the quality of sleep that matters. In our instant gratification culture, we turn to sleeping pills or alcohol for answers. These may help us get to sleep, but they cause more problems than they solve. Alcohol, sleeping pills and other drugs suppress certain stages of sleep, resulting in sleep that does not fulfill physiological functions. In other words, the person wakes up still feeling tired after apparently getting sufficient sleep.
Here are a few easy to implement lifestyle changes that can increase your quality of sleep:
Turn off the technology one hour before bedtime. Several small studies in adults and children have suggested that exposure to the blue light from televisions and smartphones before going to sleep impacts natural melatonin levels and leads to increased time to fall asleep (MSN.com). Blue light blocking glasses have also been shown to reduce these effects.
Work on sleep hygiene. It is essential that you associate the bedroom with relaxation and sleep. Clean and declutter your bedroom, relocate exercise equipment to another room, leave any work-related documents or material at work.
If you read before bed make sure your reading something fun, and don’t try to force sleep that will cause more stress and worry.
Exercise! Moderate daily exercise releases tension and increases blood circulation, decreases inflammation which interrupts sleep cycles.
Practice relaxation techniques before bed. Meditation, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, and aromatherapy have all been proven effective methods for getting your body ready for sleep.
Avoid substances that disturb sleep. I can’t tell you how many people I have treated for insomnia who have a habit of drinking coffee or tea in the afternoon. The fact is, coffee can stay in your system for up to 10 hours. Other substances that affect sleep quality include alcohol, sugar and eating late at night.
Acupuncture and Insomnia?
If your insomnia continues, acupuncture may be able to correct the underlying issues. Several high-quality clinical studies on acupuncture reveal how effective acupuncture can be at resetting dysfunctional sleep patterns. Patients in these studies treated with acupuncture and herbal medicine enjoyed better-quality sleep, decreased number of waking periods and more stable sleep patterns as assessed by EEG studies, Jenkins sleep questionnaire and the MOS sleep module questionnaire.
If you are concerned about chronic insomnia, please feel free to reach out. We have helped many patients resolve sleep disorders and get back to more healthy habits.
Neurology conferences – Neuropsychiatry and Sleep Medicine. https://sleepdisorders.neurologyconference.com/
Knowing what to do about insomnia – msn.com. https://www.msn.com/en-xl/news/other/knowing-what-to-do-about-insomnia/ar-BBU7W7w