Having Trouble Sleeping?
Is there anything more frustrating than spending an entire night listening to the tick of the clock on your bedside table?
Restless nights can sap your vitality and zip. Without enough rest, you become more forgetful, have difficulty concentrating, become more accident prone, and often feel irritable. As we get older, the natural aging process, certain chronic conditions, and medicines can all erode your chances of a good night's rest.
Sleep Disorders: A Whole Other Ball of Wax
Sleep disorders are more common than you might think. Some of the most common sleep disorders include:
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a common complaint—it is more common in older people and women. Problems with sleep may include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, frequent night wakings, sleepiness during the day, and sleep that is not refreshing. Sleep troubles may seem like just an inconvenience, but if left untreated, insomnia can lead to poor overall health and even depression.
Why Sleep Becomes Elusive
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a number of health problems can make sleeping difficult:
Good Sleep Habits
Good sleep habits include:
Sleep Medicines and Herbal Remedies
A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found behavioral changes provided longer-lasting benefits in the treatment of insomnia than did sleep medicines. With a diary of your sleep and wake habits, your doctor may help determine the cause of and solution to your sleeplessness.
Melatonin supplements are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and lack sufficient evidence proving that they can aid sleep. However, research indicates that melatonin might be beneficial for patients with jet lag. Valerian, an herb, has been used all over the world to induce sleep. There is mixed evidence to how effective it is though. Inform your doctor if you are taking any herbal supplements.
Remember that sleep is a necessity, not a commodity. It is as much a part of overall health as good nutrition and regular exercise. So do not settle for two to three hours per night. Crawl into a comfortable bed, don your earplugs, and turn off all the lights. And call your doctor if you need help.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institute on Aging
National Sleep Foundation
Better Sleep Council Canada
Canadian Sleep Society
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Last reviewed July 2012 by Brian Randall, MD