How to Finally Get Some Zzzzs

By: Suzanne Feinstein, PhD

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Were you aware that up to 70 million Americans have ongoing sleep disorders according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute?

Many people experience sleeping problems at some point in their lives. If you’re struggling, you don’t have to accept exhaustion as your new norm, though.

What are the different types of insomnia, and what can you do to get better? Read on to learn about insomnia so you can start getting more restful sleep.

Types of Insomnia

Many people talk about insomnia without knowing there are different kinds. Here are the types that people experience:

Short-Term Insomnia

Short-term insomnia is a common type of sleeping problem that lasts for a few days or weeks. It often occurs due to stress, significant life events, or changes in sleep routine. People with short-term insomnia may find it difficult to fall asleep or make it through the night uninterrupted.

Once the underlying cause of this insomnia is resolved, sleep patterns often return to normal.

Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is a more severe form of sleep disturbance that persists for a month or longer. It can harm the quality of life by causing fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Chronic insomnia may be a result of underlying medical conditions, psychological factors, or lifestyle habits.

Unlike short-term insomnia, chronic insomnia often requires more comprehensive treatment approaches to manage.

Sleep Disorders

In addition to insomnia, various sleep disorders can disrupt normal sleep patterns. One such disorder is sleep apnea, characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea can wake people up often throughout the night, which results in daytime tiredness.

Other sleep disorders include parasomnias like sleepwalking or night terrors, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy. These conditions may require specialized treatment approaches tailored to their specific symptoms.

Insomnia Causes

Why do some people find it impossible to get to sleep or stay asleep? Here are some insomnia causes:

Stress

Stressful life events, work pressure, or personal worries can trigger short-term insomnia. Anxiety about falling asleep or worries about not getting enough rest can also contribute to sleep difficulties, creating a vicious cycle that exacerbates insomnia symptoms.

Sleep Habits

Not having an established sleep schedule, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, and using electronic devices before bedtime can disrupt natural sleep-wake cycles. Poor sleep hygiene practices can make it harder to fall asleep and feel refreshed upon waking.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Some conditions like chronic pain, asthma, or gastrointestinal disorders can interfere with sleep quality. Mental wellness disorders like depression or bipolar disorder are also closely linked to insomnia. Treating these underlying conditions is essential for improving sleep patterns.

Insomnia Treatments

Recovering from insomnia is possible. Here are some insomnia treatment options:

Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a highly effective treatment for both short-term and chronic insomnia. This therapy focuses on changing behaviors and beliefs about sleep, teaching relaxation techniques, and improving sleep hygiene practices. CBT-I helps individuals develop healthier sleep habits and address underlying psychological factors contributing to insomnia.

Stimulus control is a technique that helps associate the bed with sleep by limiting leisure activities like watching movies or using smartphones in bed. It encourages going to bed only when feeling sleepy and giving yourself permission to leave the bed if you can’t get to sleep after a reasonable attempt.

Using relaxation exercises during your bedtime routine can also get arousal levels down so you can slip into a restful sleep. Things like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery can make it easier to fall asleep.

Medications

While medications can provide short-term relief for insomnia symptoms, they’re often not recommended as a permanent solution due to potential wellness risks. For people with severe insomnia or when other treatments have been ineffective, medications may be considered under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Melatonin is a hormone that does a lot of work when it comes to regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Taking melatonin supplements in low doses may help reset the body’s internal clock and improve sleep quality, particularly for people with circadian rhythm disorders or jet lag.

In certain cases, doctors may prescribe sleep medications for short-term relief of insomnia symptoms. These medications should be used cautiously and under close supervision, as they can cause tolerance, dependence, and rebound insomnia if discontinued abruptly.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to the basic lifestyle changes mentioned earlier, some other simple habits can further support healthy sleep patterns.

Your first task should be assessing and improving your bedroom. You’ll need the space to stay cool, dark, and quiet when it’s time to go to sleep. Upgrade your mattress and pillows so you can get better support, and consider using earplugs or a white noise machine to drown out alarming sounds.

Even though naps could be useful, excessive daytime napping can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you’re battling insomnia, try to limit daytime naps so they’re no longer than half an hour, and avoid napping too close to bedtime.

It’s also imperative to get stress and anxiety under control. Practice stress-reducing techniques like journaling, walking, mindfulness meditation, or yoga to help alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation. Engaging in calming activities before bedtime can let your body know that it’s time to wind down.

Treatment for Sleep Disorders

For people diagnosed with specific sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, targeted treatments can work wonders.

CPAP therapy is the go-to solution for obstructive sleep apnea, which is when a mask that goes over the nose or mouth during sleep delivers a continuous stream of air. This airflow helps keep the airway open and prevents interruptions in breathing.

Depending on the type and severity of the sleep disorder, medications or specialized devices may also be prescribed. For example, medications to regulate dopamine levels can help manage restless leg syndrome, while dental devices or surgery may be recommended for sleep apnea.

Sleeping Problems Don’t Have to Be Your Norm

Learning about the different types of insomnia can help people realize when their sleep troubles become harmful. With a holistic approach to sleep, it’s possible to train your body to get more rest.

Would you like to give therapy a try to improve your sleep schedule? Dr. Suzanne Feinstein has been helping people improve their wellness since 1995. Contact Advanced Behavioral Health to book your appointment.

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