Research suggests that seven out of 10 adults have sleep problems a few nights a week or more.
According to Dr. Joseph Cable, medical director for the Pottsville Hospital Sleep Disorders Center in Pottsville, Pa., 30 percent of auto accidents are caused by sleep deprivation, nearly as many as caused by alcohol. A study conducted in 2007 estimates that sleep deprivation costs businesses $150 billion annually due to absenteeism, lost productivity and reduced work quality.
Sleep deprivation also robs people of joy and makes even leisure activity seem like a chore. Insomnia, defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or a disturbance in sleep patterns, is usually a symptom, not a disease. There can be many causes of insomnia such as jet lag, chronic stress, alcohol, depression, anxiety, erratic work hours, major life changes, excessive light and noise, acid reflux, sleep apnea, use of medications and physical pain. It may be important to check with a health professional or sleep specialist if you can’t identify the cause of the problem.
There are some simple strategies that may be useful to get a better night’s sleep.
• Maintain a regular bedtime routine. Go to bed and get up at the same time. The brain loves routine.
• Use relaxing rituals before bed, like showers, breathing exercises and soothing music.
• Avoid caffeine within six hours and smoking and alcohol within 2 hours of bedtime.
• Avoid spicy, heavy, or sugary foods four to six hours before bedtime.
• Use comfortable bedding and a cool room temperature conducive for sleep.
• Write about what’s bothering you before bed and tell yourself you will deal with things in the morning.
• Eat a light snack that is high in the amino acid tryptophan such as warm milk or a banana.
• Avoid the computer and TV at least one hour before bed.
• If you are unable to fall asleep in 15 or 20 minutes, then go to another room and read until sleepy. Do not go to bed until sleepy.
• If you wake up and can’t go back to sleep within 15 or 20 minutes, go to another room and have a light snack and/or read until sleepy.
• Be aware of thoughts that make sleep more difficult such as “I can’t fall asleep. How am I going to get through my day?” Try and calm yourself with self-talk. “So I can’t fall asleep, I’ve made it through my day before tired, and I can do it again if I have to.”
• Regular exercise is helpful for sleep, but make sure you finished within a few hours of bedtime.
• The old standard “counting sheep” can actually work. Also, try tickling the roof of your mouth for a few seconds with your tongue. It produces alpha waves in the brain, which are pre-sleep waves.