Insomnia, Sleep Disorders and
Step 1: Keep a sleep diary
Get a journal or diary and write down your daily sleep habits for two weeks. Note your worst and
best days as well as any significant circumstances of the day. Pay attention to possible triggers
for insomnia. You may think that every night of insomnia is the same, but they are not.
Understanding the causes affecting your sleep is the first step in correcting the problem.
Step 2: Is it really insomnia?
The next step is to determine if your problem is based on true insomnia or other factors. The
National Institutes for Health has stated guidelines that you can compare your symptoms against to
determine if you are, in fact, suffering from insomnia.
Step 3: Determine your insomnia type
Did you know that there are three basic types of insomnia? Transient insomnia is only one or two
occasional nights of sleeplessness while short-term insomnia lasts one to two weeks and chronic may
continue for months or years. The causes are just as varied: some people have difficulty falling
sleep, others can't stay asleep or sleep too lightly, and still others wake up too early.
Short-term and transient insomnia can be treated without medication, while chronic insomnia will
require medical intervention.
If you have determined that you are in fact suffering from insomnia, read on:
Option1: See a doctor about your insomnia
Some physical conditions, such as sleep apnea, can successfully be treated with medication or
therapy. Make an appointment to see your doctor for help in determining if your insomnia has a
physical cause. If you have seen your doctor and he/she was not (TIP: Dr. Chopra's 'Restful Sleep:
The Complete Mind/Body Program for Overcoming Insomnia' offers readers recommendations for falling
asleep easily, feeling rested upon arising, and identifying and eliminating imbalances that cause
Option 2: Review your diet
Obvious offenders to sleep disorders are stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine. They can make it
difficult for some get to sleep and for others to stay asleep. Additionally, alcohol can relax the
throat muscles, inducing sleep apnea. You should also consider not just what you eat but when you
eat it. Avoid eating anything in the hours before bedtime as it may be indigestion that is keeping
Option 3: Investigate local sleep clinics
Check your local yellow pages to see if there is an accredited sleep clinic nearby. Specialist at
these facilities may be able top provide you with more information and aid you in your battle
Option 4: Join a sleep disorder support group
Often it is reassuring and calming just to know that you are not alone. Insomnia is no different.
By joining a support group, you will be able to share notes and ideas with others who suffer like
yourself. There are also several online discussion groups that can offer support and
EXCUSE: “I'm not tired when it's bed time.”
Option 1: Get up 30 minutes earlier
This is the first step of what is called sleep restriction therapy . The goal is to sleep 90% of
the time you are in bed. After you've tracked your sleep habits for two weeks, figure out what
percentage of the time you spend in bed is actually spent sleeping. You can calculate this
percentage by dividing the hours you are actually sleep by the total hours you spent in bed. If
your time asleep is less than 90 percent, get up 30 minutes earlier the next day and recalculate
your next night’s sleep. Once you reach the 90 percent, keep your bedtime and wake-up times the
same. Then you can start to add sleep back into your schedule in 15-minute increments every week.
If your percentage drops below 80 percent, restrict your sleep again. You don't have to get up
earlier - you can also go to bed later. Listen to your own health and mental well-being to
determine where to restrict your sleep.
Option 2: Exercise 30 minutes a day
Exercise has been shown to reduce stress lower your blood pressure, and reduce your weight. For
those who are suffering from sleep apnea, weight loss often helps. Consider setting a Goalplan to
get into shape if you want some structure. (TIP: Be sure to NOT exercise within three hours before
going to bed, as exercise late at night can make you too alert to sleep.)
Option 3: Schedule a strict bedtime and wakeup time
Put yourself on a strict sleep schedule. Finish all work and any other stressful activities at
least three hours before your scheduled bedtime. Make yourself wake up (even if you have to use an
alarm clock!) at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
This strict sleep schedule will help train your body to sleep.
Option 4: Use your bed only for sleep and sex
Your bed should be a relaxation area. If you are doing work, reading or watching television while
in bed, you are using it as a work area. You need to break this pattern.
Option 5: Remove naps from your schedule
Afternoon naps can be the demise of a good sleep plan. Better than napping is to get consecutive
hours of sleep each night. If you are finding yourself tired, stop napping and go to bed earlier at
Option 6: Drink warm milk or herbal tea before bedtime
Warm milk, which contains an amino acid called tryptophan, is a classic remedy to help induce
sleepiness at bedtime. You could also try a sleep-inducing herbal tea that includes herbs like
melatonin, valerian, and kava kava. (TIP: Check with your doctor before using any herbal product as
they are not tested or approved by the FDA.)
Option 7: Try a sleep aid
If you find no other remedy working, an over-the-counter sleep aid may be your last resort. They do
not provide the best sleep possible, but if the alternative is no or little sleep, it may be worth
a try. Make sure that you do not use it every night or for more than four weeks in a row as some
can become habit forming. Also, when you quit taking these medications, make sure you taper off
your usage so that you do not experience rebound insomnia. (TIP: Check with your doctor before
using any sleep aids.)
EXCUSE: “My sleeping environment is not ideal.”
Option 1: Get a new bed
Check your bed to determine if it could be too soft, too hard or two small for the persons sleeping
in it. Any of these issues can make good sleep impossible. (TIP: Some companies, like Samina, have
developed integrated systems of pillows, sheets, and mattresses to help you sleep better.)
Option 2: Insulate your sleep area
To sleep well, your bedroom needs to be insulated against disruptive sounds and lights. Sometimes
the use of background noise can help, such as soothing music or white noise (such as crashing waves
or wind) will help cover up other bothersome background noises such as snoring sleep partners.
(TIP: You can find sound machines at The Sharper Image.) If you prefer a more natural sound, try a
small water fountain in your bedroom to help lull you to sleep. Consider that your room may be too
bright? If so, purchase an eye pillow to substantially reduce the amount of light affecting your
Option 3: Improve the air quality and temperature in your sleep area
Did you know that the optimal sleep temperature for most people is between 65-68 degrees (F)? a
room that is too cold or warm may disrupt sleep. Also poor air circulation may be keeping you from
sleeping. Check your thermometer and adjust it as necessary. You might also consider installing a
ceiling fan or other portable fan to aid in keeping the air from being too still and stagnant as
Option 4: Sleep alone
Your sleep partner may be keeping you awake. If you're in a stressful personal relationship, or if
your sleep partner snores/thrashes around at night, try setting up separate sleeping arrangements
for yourself elsewhere in the house.
Option 5: Switch to day shift
Many people are unable to sleep during the day. If you work the night shift at your job , try to
change shifts so you get more nighttime in which to sleep.
EXCUSE: “I have too much daily stress; I can't stop thinking when I'm in
Option 1: Adopt a stress management Goalplan
A sure sign of stress is lying awake at night, unable to stop mulling over problems and issues from
the day. Adopt a Stress Management Goalplan to get this stress under control – and begin to get the
quality sleep your mind and body needs.
Option 2: Cover the numbers on your illuminated bedroom clock
If you are unable to read the time on the clock, you will not be able to obsess when you wake up at
night: Set the alarm when you go to bed at night and then turn the clock away or cover it with
something so you don't spend all night staring at it.
Option 3: Try meditation
Meditation is a known and proven method for dealing with stress. Sign up for a meditation class at
your local co-op, community college, or yoga school. You can also teach yourself meditation using
guided meditation tapes like 'The Art of Meditation.'
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