Over 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from one of the eighty types of sleep disorders. But the biggest sleep disorder – the one that causes the most anxiety and the most problems the day after – is insomnia.
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. It can come and go (episodic), or it can be chronic (over 3 weeks). Insomnia can be devastating. It can affect your memory, your ability to think clearly during the day, reasoning skills, concentration, and your moods. People with insomnia report irritability, heart palpitations, anxiety, depression, and even sleep deprivation symptoms. It can affect your appetite and your relationships. Above all, insomnia can be a lifelong disorder that is difficult to treat. Many truckers report they have suffered from insomnia at some point. After a long day on the road, it may be hard to wind down. Your mind may be racing, or you may have had too much caffeine and your heart does not slow, causing you to toss and turn until almost dawn. Here are several tips to help ease you into sleep at night:
1. Check your meds. There are several medications that cause insomnia, including cold and allergy, antidepressants, blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid, birth control, asthma, and pain medications. Ironically, even sleep medications can cause insomnia, because they may only put you to sleep but soon wear off and cause a rebound effect. Often the doctor may tell you to take these meds in the morning or can switch you to a medication that doesn’t keep you awake at night. While many people have turned to hypnotics such as Ambien to sleep, they are considered a last resort, because hypnotics are known to cause memory problems and you can become dependent on then. Carefully consider all options before you turn to pills for your sleeping problems, because it’s only a temporary solution and can cause harm long-term. Always ask your doctor for advice before changing or stopping any medication regimens.
2. Avoid certain foods and beverages. You are what you eat, according to the old saying. This is certainly true for those who suffer from insomnia. Alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods can keep you up late. Eating a full meal before going to sleep will not only stave off sleep, but it is also very hard on your heart, which must work twice as hard to help digest that heavy meal. Avoid eating after 7PM if possible. A light snack such as fresh fruit may ease hunger pangs before bed. Limiting liquids after 7PM will also help you stay asleep, so that your full bladder won’t awaken you suddenly in the night.
3. Go to sleep close to the same time every night. A consistent schedule is the most important way to fall asleep regularly. If you go to bed at 10PM one night and then 1AM the next night, your body’s internal clock is off, and you will have trouble sleeping. Try to keep the same schedule every night and avoid heavy naps. Napping longer than 20 minutes during the day will make it much more difficult to fall asleep.
4. Try some sleep meditation or hypnosis therapy. YouTube is chockfull of free relaxing music and guided meditation that will help you fall asleep. Slip in some headphones and start dozing to the sounds of rainfall or a soft, soothing voice.
5. Avoid books and TV right before bed. Some people believe a book before bed induces drowsiness, but it can actually have the opposite effect. Their content can have you up half the night thinking. This holds true for TV and the Internet. Close down your computer (that means Facebook and Twitter) a few hours before bed.