Having Trouble Sleeping?

We've got expert shut-eye solutions to six surprising sleep wreckers that might be keeping you up at night.

From the WebMD Archives


"We see people using BlackBerries and laptops in bed, answering emails, and continuing to do the work they do all day long. For people who suffer from insomnia, that can perpetuate it," says Alon Avidan, MD, associate professor of neurology and associate director of UCLA's Sleep Disorders Program.

Walsleban suggests giving your body time -- an hour or so -- to unwind before slipping into bed. Take a bath, read a good book (try fiction!), and learn to practice deep breathing and relaxation exercises to calm nerves and encourage a peaceful night's sleep.

Depression and Sleep

Insomnia and depression tend to go hand in hand, and it can be difficult to figure out which came first. In fact, research suggests that people with insomnia have 10 times the risk of developing depression as people who sleep well. And people who are depressed commonly struggle with insomnia, showing symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up feeling rested. The brain chemical serotonin, which affects mood, emotion, sleep, and appetite, according to Walsleban, is one likely reason the two conditions travel in tandem.

Ironically, Avidan warns, a common class of medication used to treat depression -- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- sometimes causes sleep disorders, such as periodic limb movement disorder, which causes your legs to jerk while you sleep, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, in which people act out their dreams, punching, kicking, or jumping from bed while still asleep. Talk with your doctor about all possible medication side effects.

Caffeine and Sleep

Caffeine stays in the bloodstream much longer than most people realize, Avidan says, keeping you wired when you should be sleeping. Depending on your metabolism, it can take as long as eight to 14 hours to eliminate one-half of the total amount of caffeine you consume from your system.

A latte with two shots of espresso contains about 150 milligrams of caffeine. If you have that at 5 p.m., by the time you wake up at 7 in the morning, the level of caffeine in the body is still about 75 milligrams. One Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, Avidan explains.