Sleeping Disorder or Trouble Sleeping? Great Lakes Psychology Group

Sleeping Disorder or Trouble Sleeping?

Trouble Sleeping

According to the National Sleep Foundation, our bodies rely upon getting the proper amount of sleep in order to help us make decisions, stay alert, form memories, learn new things, and countless other important mental functions.

Yet, according to the American Psychological Association, 1/3 of Americans struggle to get adequate quality sleep. Inadequate sleep is associated with increased irritability, poor concentration, decreased productivity, higher rates of accidents, absence from work or school, and a reduced quality of life. Chronic sleep deprivation can also be associated mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

In addition to taking a toll on your mental health, inadequate sleep can be detrimental to your physical health as well. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. Pre-existing medical conditions increase the risk of insomnia, and insomnia also increases the risk of medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other chronic pain conditions.

Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep, and/or waking early in the morning without the ability to go back to sleep, at least three nights per week and for at least three months. In turn, the inability to get enough sleep is associated with significant distress, or impairment in daily functioning.

The National Sleep Foundation has outlined a series of guidelines to follow to improve the quality of your sleep:

  • Avoid naps during the day. If a nap is necessary, limit it to 30 minutes. Sleeping too much during the day will disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Avoid any activity other than sleep in your bed. If all you do is sleep in your bed, your brain will be sent a signal when you get into bed that it’s time to go to sleep. Doing anything else (i.e., reading, working, playing video games, surfing the web) in your bed weakens this signal to your brain.
  • Only lie in bed to go to sleep if you feel sleepy. It may seem counterintuitive to stay awake longer in order to get more sleep. However, attempting to sleep when the body and mind are not ready is likely to lead to restlessness.
  • When you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, and go do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Then, try again. This way, you avoid associating being in bed with the inability to sleep.
  • When your mind “just won’t shut off”, try practicing watching your thoughts pass by, as if they were leaves in a stream. Latching on to worries will induce wakefulness, while letting them pass will induce sleepiness. Here’s another trick: try saying to yourself, “there is no where else I need to be other than where I am right now.” Give yourself permission to be exactly where you are, with no pressure to be solving problems in your mind.
  • When you get in bed, remind yourself that your intention is only to relax, not to fall asleep. Often, it is the pressure to get to sleep and the worry that ensues when we cannot get to sleep that ultimately keeps us awake. Setting the intention only to relax will induce sleepiness so that you naturally drift off when your body and mind are ready.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine in the afternoon.
  • Avoid eating foods that can cause indigestion or heartburn before bedtime.
  • Exercise! As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise every day can improve your sleep.
  • Expose yourself to adequate natural light during the day. Your sleep-wake cycle depends on exposure to natural light during the day, and darkness at night. An easy way to get an extra boost of natural light is to forego sunglasses on your commute to work, and get outside as often as you can.
  • Turn down the lights and avoid looking at a lighted screen (i.e., TV, smart phone, tablet) at least one hour before bedtime. Bright lights send signals to your brain to stay awake. Avoiding them will signal your brain that it’s time to get sleepy.
  • Establish a relaxing and soothing bedtime routine. This might include things like drinking chamomile tea, reading a relaxing book (i.e., no thrillers!), meditating, taking a bubble bath with epsom salt, diffusing a relaxing essential oil such as lavender, stretching, journaling, etc. Having a bedtime routine is important because it allows your body and mind to wind down, inducing sleepiness.

Your health and happiness depend on getting enough sleep. The good news is that insomnia is a treatable disorder, and counselors and psychologists from the Great Lakes Psychology Group network are effective at helping clients improve their sleep. GLPG accepts most insurance plans. Don’t wait any longer, make an appointment to start improving your sleep, and mental health, today.

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