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Archived Article

Having Trouble Sleeping?

Do you find that you have difficulty falling asleep at night, often laying awake for hours after going to bed? Are you restless throughout the night and have trouble staying asleep?

There are many reasons that individuals experience disrupted sleep patterns. For instance, worrying about the day's events, or experiencing stress or depression can contribute to sleep difficulties. Certain medical conditions can impact sleep patterns as well. It is important to see your medical provider to rule out any medical condition that may be contributing to the problem. In addition to these factors contributing to disrupted sleep, excessive alcohol consumption, the use of illicit substances, and/or the use of stimulants (i.e., nicotine found in cigarettes; stimulants contained in some cold medicines) can also lead to sleep impairment.

Fortunately, there are several things that may help improve your sleep:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
  • Decrease/eliminate alcohol use and/or illicit substance use.
  • Avoid exercising in the evening. This tends to increase your body temperature and can negatively impact the sleep cycle.
  • Avoid napping.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine after 6pm, or even 4pm if you go to bed early. For instance, avoid such things as caffeinated coffee, caffeinated soda, and chocolate since these are stimulants.
  • Take a warm bath or shower a few hours before bedtime
  • Sleep in a room set at a comfortable temperature. A room that is too hot or too cold may interfere with sleep.
  • If you're unable to sleep, don't remain in bed for more than 20-30 minutes. Laying in bed tossing and turning can make it even more difficult to sleep due to the frustration of trying to force yourself to get to sleep. Instead, get up, engage in a relaxing activity, such as watching TV or reading, then return to bed. You may need to do this repeatedly throughout the night.
  • Avoid eating heavy meals before bedtime. However, eating a light carbohydrate (i.e., a few crackers or a piece of bread) might help improve sleep.

Chronic sleep problems can be extremely disruptive to one's life and one's ability to cope with stressors. If your sleep problems are interfering with your daily life in any way, it may be beneficial to seek help from a qualified mental health or medical professional.

Karen Desmarais, Ph.D.
Staff Psychologist

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