Let’s Talk About Insomnia

insomniacImage: HessDesignWorks.com

Originally Written — August 14, 2009

USA Today offers us another article about sleep.

“Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco have identified a family with a genetic mutation that causes members to require only six hours sleep a night. The bad news? The gene is vanishingly rare in humans, found in less than 3% of people.”

I am not in the lucky 3%, but apparently Martha Stewart is. I once heard her claim that she only sleeps about four hours a night and functions just fine, thank you very much. On a fairly regular basis, I sleep less than five hours a night, but I would not say that I function well.

I haven’t slept past 4:30 AM once this week. Nothing is conducive to good sleep around here. The dogs bark across the creek, Dad coughs or calls me several times a night, and H snores as if his very life depends on it. Even if I’m managing to get a half way decent night’s sleep, I can always count on The Brother to start his truck at 4:30 every morning as he leaves for work.

If none of that manages to wake me during the night, there are always the nightmares. Since we made the decision to move back home, I’ve started having nightmares again. I wake screaming that someone is in the house, the car is going off a cliff, the house is decaying or melting or decrepit, there’s a man in the attic, and on and on. Even Dad has heard me screaming and made comments the following morning. I suppose my brainpan has too much to deal with, and it’s attempting to make sense of it at night.

I’m hoping things will calm down once I’m sleeping in my own bed again. Our mattress is a fine thing – hardly been slept on – purchased just before Dad had his stroke. It’s nothing like the quickly purchased Sam’s Club mattress we sleep on here. The room will be cool and quiet and dark; the computer will not be in the room, and engines will not be revving up at 4:30 AM. Oh, darn!


Ten tips for better sleep

Source: Mayo Clinic


Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, even on the weekends. Sticking to a schedule helps reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle and can help you fall asleep more easily at night.

2. Don’t eat or drink large amounts before bedtime. Eat a light dinner at least two hours before sleeping. If you’re prone to heartburn, avoid spicy or fatty foods, which can make your heartburn flare and prevent a restful sleep. Also, limit how much you drink before bed. Too much liquid can cause you to wake up repeatedly during the night for trips to the toilet.

3. Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol in the evening. These are stimulants that can keep you awake. Smokers often experience withdrawal symptoms at night, and smoking in bed is dangerous. Avoid caffeine for eight hours before your planned bedtime. Your body doesn’t store caffeine, but it takes many hours to eliminate the stimulant and its effects. And although often believed to be a sedative, alcohol actually disrupts sleep.

4. Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, can help you fall asleep faster and make your sleep more restful. However, for some people, exercising right before bed may make getting to sleep more difficult.

5. Make your bedroom cool, dark, quiet and comfortable. Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Adjust the lighting, temperature, humidity and noise level to your preferences. Use blackout curtains, eye covers, earplugs, extra blankets, a fan or white-noise generator, a humidifier or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.

6. Sleep primarily at night. Daytime naps may steal hours from nighttime slumber. Limit daytime sleep to about a half-hour and make it during midafternoon. If you work nights, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight, which adjusts the body’s internal clock, doesn’t interrupt your sleep. If you have a day job and sleep at night, but still have trouble waking up, leave the window coverings open and let the sunlight help awaken you.

7. Choose a comfortable mattress and pillow. Features of a good bed are subjective and differ for each person. But make sure you have a bed that’s comfortable. If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. Children and pets are often disruptive, so you may need to set limits on how often they sleep in bed with you.

8. Start a relaxing bedtime routine. Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. This may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. Relaxing activities done with lowered lights can help ease the transition between wakefulness and sleepiness.

9. Go to bed when you’re tired and turn out the lights. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get up and do something else. Go back to bed when you’re tired. Don’t agonize over falling asleep. The stress will only prevent sleep.

10. Use sleeping pills only as a last resort. Check with your doctor before taking any sleep medications. He or she can make sure the pills won’t interact with your other medications or with an existing medical condition. Your doctor can also help you determine the best dosage. If you do take a sleep medication, reduce the dosage gradually when you want to quit, and never mix alcohol and sleeping pills. If you feel sleepy or dizzy during the day, talk to your doctor about changing the dosage or discontinuing the pills.


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