For nearly 30 million Americans and many more around the globe sleep disorder is an unfortunate reality. Everyone needs to get enough sleep to feel rested and energetic throughout the day. For most this means at least six hours a night and at least 8 or more for teenagers and children.
Sleep is a very important behavior that is supersensitive to many things that can disrupt it. Pain, rumination, anxiety, mood disorder, new surrounding, uncomfortable temperature, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and medication side effects can all disrupt a normal night sleep. Sleep disorders can also lead to depression, cognitive processing deficits and even more serious problems such as narcolepsy (sudden sleep) that can result in motor vehicle accidents.
Sleep disorders can be confronted and treated with the following approach:
1. Identify that you have a sleep disorder, particularly if you notice your sleep pattern has changed, you are exhausted throughout the day, or you are dozing off at inappropriate times during the day.
2. Get a sleep assessment done to rule out physiological causes the potential disorder.
3. If pain is the cause of the sleep disorder, consult with your M.D. to obtain a more effective means of coping with the pain.
4. For those who are anxious or ruminate while in the bed consider the following steps:
- Set a strict time to go to bed and a strict time to arise.
- Do not nap during the day and exercise daily.
- No caffeine after lunch.
- Refrain from T.V., reading, or other cognitive activity in bed.
- Set the temperature in the room to cool.
- Try to fall asleep within 20 minutes of lying down.
If you do not fall asleep, get out of the bed and sit in a designated “worry chair” where you permit your brain to ruminate.
Once you believe you have ruminated enough try to return to the bed and fall asleep within 20 minutes. Repeat the same process if you do not fall asleep.
It is also a good idea to write down what you are thinking so you can view your anxiety rather than simply feeling it.
5. Drink a warm glass of milk prior to going to sleep.
6. Use white noise if it helps.
7. Eat healthier and lose some weight within reason.
8. Consult with your M.D. to assess the need for medication as a last resort.