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Why Can’t I Sleep?

If you have a hard time falling or staying asleep at night, you are not alone. Some estimates show that 10% to 30% of adults live with chronic insomnia. As many as 95% of Americans report an episode of insomnia at some point during their lives. That’s a whole lot of people asking themselves, “Why can’t I sleep?” Unfortunately, the answer to the age-old question is not an easy one. 

Multiple factors can play a role in not getting enough zzz’s, leaving us with complaints of daytime fatigue, lack of energy, irritability, reduced work performance, and difficulty concentrating. If you feel these daytime impairments after having repeated difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, you may be dealing with insomnia.

Factors that keep us awake can be physiological, environmental, or psychological. Some of these common factors include:

  • Consuming substances that negatively affect sleep. Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and some medications. Diet pills and cold medicines are often the culprits. If you are unsure if something you are taking is affecting your sleep—ask your provider.
  • Physical pain and discomfort can make it harder to fall and remain asleep. Frequent trips to the bathroom, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome are other medical conditions that disrupt sleep. However, your medical provider can treat those conditions. 
  • Depression, anxiety, and excessive worry can keep our minds from turning off at night. Replaying the day’s events and worrying about possible coming events are shared with people having insomnia related to mental health conditions. Treating underlying mental health issues will often resolve issues with insomnia.
  • Unhealthy lifestyles and sleep habits we are unaware of may also hinder a good night’s sleep. These habits can include going to bed at a different time each night or napping during the day. Screen devices like computers, televisions, and cell phones can also cause sleep problems. Too much light, too many blankets, and too much noise are all environmental factors that can disrupt our sleep.

So now what? We know what it feels like not to sleep and what might be causing it, but how do we fix it? It is often our first inclination to want to take a medication or pill that will put us to sleep. However, the most beneficial way to improve restful, restorative sleep is to work on sleep hygiene. 

Sleep hygiene refers to daily activities and habits that are consistent with or promote the maintenance of good quality sleep and full daytime alertness:

  • Develop regular sleep habits. This means keeping a regular sleep and wake time, sleeping as much as needed to feel refreshed the following day, but not spending more time in bed than needed.
  • Avoid staying in bed in the morning to catch up on sleep.
  • Avoid daytime naps. If rest is necessary, keep it short (less than 1 hour) and avoid napping after 3 pm.
  • Do not read, write, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone, or play cards in bed.
  • Avoid caffeine after lunch; avoid alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime; avoid nicotine before bedtime.
  • Avoid sleeping pills, particularly over-the-counter remedies.
  • Create a bedtime routine (dim lights, take a bath, listen to soft music, read a book).
  • Keep the bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Exercise daily (but not later than 6 pm to 7 pm).
  • Do not force yourself to sleep. If you cannot fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until sleepy (e.g., read a book in a dimly lit room, watch a non-stimulating TV program). Avoid watching the clock or worrying about the perceived consequences of not getting enough sleep.

Sleep hygiene is not always easy, and you shouldn’t expect to see results quickly.  You may have to make new habits and break old ones, which will take time. 

If you have questions about treating insomnia, start working on your sleep hygiene and make an appointment to see one of our providers at Canyon View Medical Group.

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness and fatigue is a very common complaint from more than 25% of people. There are many different causes but the large majority are related to how we sleep.  

Sleep Disorders include insufficient sleep, sleep-related breathing disorders, sleep-related movement disorders, and sleep-wake cycle disorders.  

How you feel during the day often depends on how much you sleep.  Different ages require different amounts of sleep. Sleep times for different ages: Newborns (16-18 hours), preschool-aged children (11-12 hours), school-aged children (at least 10 hours), teenagers (9-10 hours), and adults ( 7-8 hours).  

Rearranging your schedule to allow you to get the recommended number of hours of sleep can have a positive impact on how you feel and your overall health.

Sleep-related breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea are very common and easily treatable disorders.  If you have three or more of the following symptoms below you are at high risk for sleep apnea.

  1. Do you SNORE loudly (louder than talking or loud enough to be heard through closed doors)?
  2. Do you often feel TIRED, fatigued, or sleepy during the daytime?
  3. Has anyone OBSERVED you stop breathing during your sleep?
  4. Do you have or are you being treated for high blood PRESSURE?
  5. BMI of more than 35? (overweight and obesity)
  6. AGE over 50 years old?
  7. NECK circumference > 15.75 inches?
  8. Male GENDER?

Please talk to your doctor and they can order a sleep study that you take home for several nights, or refer you to a sleep specialist.  Treating sleep apnea includes exercise, weight loss, dental devices, and CPAP machines.  CPAP machines are very quiet and much more comfortable than older ones with which you may be familiar.  

Lastly, sleep-related movement disorders such as restless leg syndrome can cause people to not get proper sleep.  Leg discomfort, and typically an urge to move, that occurs with rest, abates with movement, and worsens in the evening, or the history from a sleep partner of limb movements during sleep can signal a sleep-related movement disorder.  There are many other causes of poor sleep. Please make an appointment to talk to your doctor about these or any other sleeping problems.  

Additional Information –

Haley Pledger, PA
Women’s Care
Matthew Walton, DO
Austin Bills, DO
Family Medicine
Aaron Fausett, PA
Family Medicine
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