What to Do About Insomnia
Can't Sleep? Insomnia Types, Causes, and Treatments
Back to Sleep continued...
Behavioral strategies include:
- Sleep restriction, that is, restricting where one sleeps to only the bed. The idea here is that you sleep only in bed and you stay in bed only when asleep. Do not lie awake in bed for hours on end. If you do not fall asleep after about 25 minutes, get out of bed and do something calming, like read a book. This helps reduce the anxiety-provoking association of being awake while in bed, and ultimately may create the positive association of sleeping well in bed. When restricting sleep in this manner, you will eventually become so tired that you become sleepy earlier in the evening, relieving insomnia. Given how tired one will be when beginning this regimen, activities where safety is an issue, like driving, should be avoided.
- Stimulus control involves making the bedroom a place for sleep and sex only -- no TV-watching, for example. This again tries to create associations to help train your mind.
- Relaxation uses certain techniques to relax your mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. Here a psychologist helps to eliminate those thoughts associated with a poor night's sleep.
All the therapies noted above should be instituted, directed, and monitored by a doctor after a proper evaluation and diagnosis.
As if the misery of insomnia is not enough, chronic insomnia takes an additional toll. Studies show an increased mortality risk for those reporting less than either six or seven hours per night. One study found that reduced sleep time is a greater mortality risk than smoking, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
So, if you have symptoms of insomnia, it is very important take it as seriously as any other medical condition or illness. Establish good sleep hygiene and see your doctor or sleep specialist.