In our fast-paced, over-worked and multi-tasking society, sleep problems are a commonality many of us share. In fact, the first signs of stress are appetite changes and sleep problems, followed by physical complaints and changes in intimacy. When our stressors persist or become unmanageable, the occasional sleep problem forms into insomnia, which all too often cannot be cured without medical or mental health intervention.
Poor sleep interferes with concentration and memory, mood, energy, metabolism, the body’s ability to heal and defend against illness, as well as judgment and overall healthy decision-making. Consistently poor sleep increases risks for conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, headaches and depression.
Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep:
· Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine before bed.
· Set a wake and sleep schedule to go by every day of the week, including weekends. Your body temperature drops during sleep–keep your thermostat at a cool, but comfortable, temperature between 60-70 degrees.
· Avoid naps.
· Try not to watch TV or do work in bed; if you do, stop an hour before you would like to be asleep so your brain has time to unwind.
· If you typically exercise in the afternoon or evening, try to fit your workout in earlier in the day.
When to seek professional help:
· You have been taking over-the-counter medication for more than a month.
· You have been prescribed a sleep aid for longer than six months.
· You wake up with headaches.
· You never feel rested.
· You feel fatigued, foggy and forgetful (and sometimes clumsy).
· You feel depressed or easily irritated.
· You are falling asleep when idle (e.g., watching TV, sitting in class/training, in traffic or when not the driver, in the car for over an hour).
· Others say you are restless or snore in your sleep.
· You have difficulty getting to work on time due to oversleeping or are getting in trouble at work for falling asleep on the job.
· You have turned to alcohol as a sleep aid.
If you feel as though you are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis and it is affecting your work or personal life, talk to your primary care provider.
You can also talk to a mental health professional to discuss whether you may have an underlying sleep disorder, like insomnia or sleep apnea.