It's 3 a.m. and you're staring at the green glow of your digital clock,
wondering if you'll get any shut-eye before the alarm blasts in a few short
hours. After several sleepless nights, you're feeling cranky and lethargic. Is
it safe to start taking a sleep medication?
Many people turn to sleep aids because insomnia and sleep shortage have
become commonplace in this country, leading to potentially serious
consequences. In a 2008 National Sleep Foundation poll, 29% of respondents --
Methods such as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), deep breathing techniques, imagery, and self-hypnosis may help some people overcome a sleep disorder. PMR involves helping the individual to sequentially tense and relax the body's major muscle groups while concentrating on contrasting sensations of tension and relaxation.
Cognitive Therapy for Sleep Disorders
Cognitive therapy helps people with insomnia identify and correct inappropriate thoughts and beliefs that may contribute to insomnia. Cognitive therapy can give people the proper information about sleep norms, age-related sleep changes, reasonable sleep goals, and the influence of naps and exercise.
Stimulus Control for Sleep Disorders
Stimulus control (SC) is a practice in which the bedroom is reserved for sleep and sex. SC derives from the idea that insomnia may be caused by bedroom associations unrelated to those uses, such as stressful situations, or TV watching. Therefore, the bedroom should be reserved for sleep, sex, and dressing only.
Sleep Restriction Therapy for Sleep Disorders
Sleep restriction therapy (SRT) is based on the belief that excess time in bed makes sleep problems worse. SRT consists of limiting a person's time in bed to only that time where they are sleeping.
Sleep Hygiene for Sleep Disorders
Sleep hygiene refers to practices, habits, and environmental factors that are important for getting sound sleep. The four general areas important to sleep hygiene are the circadian rhythm (24-hour cycle), aging, psychological stressors that cause mini-awakenings (in which the brain wakes up for just a few seconds), and stimulant use.
Circadian rhythms influence when, how much, and how well people sleep. These rhythms may be altered by the timing of various factors, including naps, bedtime, exercise, and exposure to light.
Aging also plays a role in sleep. Sleep patterns change after people reach the age of 40. There are many more nocturnal awakenings as people age. The awakenings affect sleep quality and can interact with any other condition that may cause arousals or awakenings. The more awakenings people experience at night, the more likely they will awaken with a feeling of not being rested.
Psychological stressors such as exams, deadlines, or job stress may interfere with sleep. It is beneficial for people to develop some kind of pre-sleep ritual to break the connection between stress and bedtime. Some people find it helpful to make a list of all the stressors of the day, along with a plan to deal with them. In addition, periods of relaxation (meditating or taking a hot bath) can help a person relax and get to sleep.
Stimulants can stay in the body as long as 14 hours and can increase the number of times you awaken at night, decreasing your total amount of sleep time. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. The effects of nicotine, when consumed in high doses, are similar to those of caffeine. Alcohol may initially sedate you, making it easier to fall asleep. The downside to alcohol is that as it is metabolized and cleared from your system during sleep, it causes arousals that can last as long as two to three hours after it has been eliminated.