Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Need A Good Night's Sleep? Some Thoughts on Insomnia

Many things keep us up at night - a crying child, the financial crisis, stress at work, difficult conversations to be had, a conflict,  just to name a few.  Almost everyone knows the nuisance of occasional insomnia – or, difficulty falling or staying asleep.  About 60 million Americans a year have insomnia frequently or for extended periods of time.  Older people and women tend to suffer more. 
While causes often include situational stress or life habits, medical and psychological conditions can also be a factor.  Sometimes depression or anxiety are to blame.  Insomnia over the long term can affect productivity in work and personal life.
Here are some tips that can help with mild insomnia:
·      Avoid Disruptive Waves:  Turn off any screens – computers, TV, cell phones, reading devices – 1-2 hours before bedtime.  Screens emit waves that interfere with the brain’s sleep function.  Preferably, keep these devices out of the bedroom.
·      Establish a Routine:  Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day, even weekends.  Avoid daytime naps.
·      Set the Stage:  Keep your bedroom orderly and clean.  Keep the temperature comfortable (most people prefer 68-74 degrees).
·      Embrace the Ritual:  Establish a bedtime ritual to signal to your body and mind that it’s time for bed.
·      Natural Remedies:  Herbal tea, warm milk, as well as ginger and lavender products can help with relaxation.  Flat ginger ale at room temperature has worked wonders for numerous people.  Stay away from caffeine after 4 pm.
·      Write It Down:  If to-do lists, ideas, or conversations keep re-playing in your mind, jot them down on a bedside notepad.  That helps clear the mind.
·      Meditation:  In your mind’s eye, outline an equilateral triangle over and over again.  When your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the triangle. 

It is important to learn the cause of your insomnia.  Some types of insomnia require medical or psychological treatment.  Consult with your health care provider if you suffer from chronic and severe insomnia. 

Talking to a professional about the concerns that pre-occupy you, including insomnia, can be immensely helpful.  I am a Houston psychologist – to learn more about my services, visit www.drgortner.com.