Insomnia, or trouble sleeping, is a widespread problem that affects a large percentage of people at some time during their lives. Lack of sleep can have a huge impact on one’s health, including increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and depression, decreasing immune function and increasing the risk of accidents. Memory is affected and the ability to multi-task is compromised.
There are multiple medical causes for insomnia. The list is lengthy, but some major causes include pain, urinary problems, depression/anxiety, heart failure, asthma and sleep disorders including obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Always consult with your physician to rule out these and other potentially serious causes of insomnia.
There is much one can do to improve sleep without having to resort to over-the-counter or prescription medication to assist with sleep. Although this list is not exhaustive, the most common strategies include:
- Keep your bedroom quiet and dark
- Regularly exercise, but not late at night
- Don’t take naps
- Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule, and develop a nightly bedtime ritual such as taking a warm bath or reading for 15 minutes
- Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sex, not eating, talking on the phone or watching TV
- Don’t go to bed hungry or overly full
- Limit fluids after dinner and no caffeine after lunch (for further reading on the effects of caffeine, click here). In general, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, decongestants and certain asthma inhalers should be limited or eliminated if possible.
Most non-serious cases of insomnia can be adequately corrected with one or more of these recommendations. If you have tried these solutions and they have not worked for you, talk to your doctor about other options.
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