Your personal choices may affect your sleep. Use common sense solutions to make improvements!
What are some common behaviors that perpetuate insomnia? Some of them may surprise you!
Certain substances and activities, including eating patterns, can contribute to insomnia. If you can’t sleep, review the following lifestyle factors to see if one or more could be affecting you:
- Eating a heavy meal close to bedtime may disrupt your sleep. The best practice is to eat lightly before bedtime. When you eat too much in the evening, it can cause discomfort and make it hard for your body to settle and relax. Spicy foods can also cause heartburn and interfere with your sleep.
- All forms of alcohol are sedatives. Alcohol can help you fall asleep initially, but may disrupt your sleep later in the night.
- Love that java? Remember, caffeine is a stimulant. Most people understand the alerting power of caffeine and use it in the morning to help them start the day and feel productive. Caffeine in moderation is fine for most people, but excessive caffeine can cause insomnia. A 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll found that people who drank four or more cups/cans of caffeinated drinks a day were more likely than those who drank zero to one cups/cans daily to experience at least one symptom of insomnia at least a few nights each week.Caffeine can stay in your system for as long as eight hours, so the effects are long lasting. If you have insomnia, do not consume food or drinks with caffeine too close to bedtime.
- Nicotine is also a stimulant and can cause insomnia. Smoking cigarettes or tobacco products close to bedtime can make it hard to fall asleep and to sleep well through the night. Smoking is damaging to your health. If you smoke, you should stop.
Insomnia & The Brain
In some cases, insomnia may be caused by certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are known to be involved with sleep and wakefulness. There are many possible chemical interactions in the brain that could interfere with sleep and may explain why some people are biologically prone to insomnia and seem to struggle with sleep for many years without any identifiable cause even when they follow healthy sleep advice.
So What is the Solution?
When implementing good sleep hygiene (as mentioned in my previous blog) and addressing the habits mentioned above, the next generally-recommended step is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I’ve found through my own research and while attending presentations about sleep disorders that this is the next step experts in the field recommend most often.
Exactly what is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
CBT is a form of psychological treatment that has been around for decades and has been applied to many types of human problems.
CBT for insomnia applies principles through which an individual focuses on the relationship between thoughts (cognition), feelings (emotions), and actions (behavior). I know this sounds complicated, and that’s why I leave the treatment and implementation to mental health professionals. There is considerable research demonstrating that CBT is effective for many types of mental health and physical issues other than insomnia. These issues include anxiety, depression, anger, pain and addictions.
CBT for insomnia targets specific beliefs and behaviors that keep individuals from solid restorative sleep. In my professional capacity, CBT becomes the next step for me in trying to help my patient solve the problem of insomnia.
I hope the information provided in my three-part series on sleep has been informative and offers insights for you to consider if you suffer from lack of a quality good night sleep.
What Are My Top 5 Take-Aways?
- 35% of Americans don’t get the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night. Twenty percent have sleep disorders. Do one of these statistics apply to you?
- Take control by following some of the recommendations outlined in this sleep series.
- Incorporate good sleep hygiene.
- Talk to your doctor about your sleep. Get a thorough sleep evaluation.
- If these solutions do not help you, consider asking your physician for a referral to a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy psychologist.
Let me hear about your successes!
To a Long and Healthy Life,
David Bernstein, MD