I Can't Fall Asleep...

If you are having trouble with insomnia, there are three things you can do right away to help yourself. No matter what other factors may be effecting your sleep, you can do these three things immediately and have a good chance of helping your sleep:

  • Reduce caffeine - Caffeine has been shown to cause people to take longer to get to sleep, to cause more awakenings, and to lower the quality of sleep. Many types of soda contain caffeine as does chocolate, coffee and many types of teas. One rule of thumb is no caffeine after lunch.
  • Limit alcohol - Using alcohol late in the evening, even as little as one to two drinks produces troubled and fragmented sleep. Sleep is fragmented and shallow and can cause a decrease in delta sleep (deep sleep needed to restore the body) and REM sleep (sleep that helps restore the mind).
  • Stop smoking cigarettes - Nicotine can keep you awake. It is a stimulant. Smokers often have more difficulty falling asleep because smoking raises blood pressure, speeds up the heart rate, and stimulates brain-wave activity. Smokers also tend to wake up more in the middle of the night.

There are many causes for sleep difficulties. Listed above are some common ones.

If you are having difficulty sleeping, especially if you experience early morning wakening, you are encouraged to see a health care professional at:

  • Health Services (ext.5135)
  • Counseling Services (ext. 5141)

I've Got to Get Some Sleep!!

The physical and emotional discomfort associated with sleep deprivation is a common experience for all of us who have suffered an occasional sleepless night or pulled an "all-nighter" in order to finish a paper. Most people believe that simply getting one good night's sleep will erase the impact of sleep deprivation. In addition, most of us believe that losing "a few hours sleep" doesn't really affect us. We know that 8 hours of sleep a night is recommended but we think we are unaffected as long as we get 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night. A growing body of scientific evidence is accumulating to indicate that these assumptions are not true and that even partial sleep deprivation (the loss of 2-3 hours of sleep per night) has a significant impact on human health, behavior and performance.

Studies now indicate that even one night of partial sleep loss has an impact on psychomotor performance.  Losing as little as one hour of sleep may have far reaching effects and has been proven by studies which have demonstrated significant increases in motor vehicle accidents during the week following the onset of daylight savings time. Sleep related car accidents in the U.S. are estimated at 10,000 per year - 87% of these accidents are fatal.

Research has shown that the consequences of even partial sleep loss can include:

  • Immunologic consequences rendering a person more susceptible to infection and/or less able to effectively control an infection.
  • Mood changes including fatigue, listlessness, and irritability, decrease in self-esteem, lowered coping skills and depression.
  • Social consequences including increase in interpersonal conflict and decreased effectiveness at work and school.
  • Impaired hand-eye coordination and fine motor precision skills. Impaired performance in emergency situations requiring quick reflex responses.
  • Slowing of mental processes including impairment in attentional focus, memory, learning, reasoning ability, problem solving and creative thinking.
  • Increased likelihood of accidents
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Medical conditions including cardiac rhythm disturbances are more common with periods of even partial sleep deprivation.
  • Seizure thresholds are lowered in epileptics and arthritic conditions are more symptomatic when even partial sleep deprivation is present.

It is clear that adequate sleep is an absolute necessity for wellness.

I Need to Sleep Better...

There are many causes for trouble sleeping. Many problems arise simply from poor sleep hygiene. Try these simple solutions. These will often work:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night. Our bodies work on a cycle of rhythms. You need to establish a rhythm for sleep. Our bodies have their own internal clock and you need to set that clock for "bed time".
  • Get up consistently at the same time every day. Again the sleep - wake cycle needs to be established. About 20 to 30 minutes before going to bed, do something relaxing. Also dim the lights. Bright lights and over stimulating the brain with a suspenseful or fast action TV show or video can be very counter-productive to sleep. If you have been in bed for 30 minutes and you are still wide awake, get out of bed and do something relaxing. Don't lay in bed and toss and turn, it will only make the problem worse. The mind needs to see the bed as a place for sleep and comfort, not frustration with trying to get to sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine - rule of thumb is no coffee, chocolate, caffeinated tea or soda after lunch.
  • Limit alcohol - having a drink in order to help you go to sleep is actually counter productive. Alcohol causes fragmented and shallow non-restful sleep.
  • Don't use tobacco - nicotine will keep you awake. It increases the heart rate, stimulates brain wave activity and causes a rise in blood pressure. Be sure your the temperature in the room is not too warm. It is more difficult to fall asleep in an excessively hot room. Our body temperature actually needs to drop in the "falling asleep" process. No naps during the day until you get your night-time sleep pattern back to normal. Napping can throw the cycle off and make it hard to re-establish a normal sleep-wake cycle.

If these suggestions don't help in 5 - 7 days, then speak to a health care provider at Health Services.