Even occasional lack of sleep can put you at an escalated risk of developing certain health conditions. Since there are so many variations of insomnia - here's a template to help you address the issues:
"I wake up too early in the am" - Early risers (especially the elderly) may have ASPS - Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome - which means that the internal body clock regulating sleep/wake, is not functioning properly. ASPS sufferers sleep best between 8 pm and 4 am.
Solution? Try a light box that simulates natural light and use it for 30 minutes to an hour before sunset. If you have glaucoma or bi-polar disorder, make sure this option is safe for you by consulting with your physician. If you have retinopathy, do not use light therapy. Another option is to try a 3-5 mg. melatonin supplement, checking with your doctor to make sure it's OK.
"I fall asleep but can't stay asleep" - if you wake up during the night but fall back asleep within seconds - no problem. If you wake up and stay up - big problem. Sleep apnea is one cause of this and so is another condition call PLMD - Periodic Limb Movement Disorder - a neurological condition that causes involuntary kicking, jerking and other lower body movements during sleep.
Solution? Consult with a sleep apnea specialist if you are overweight, snore loudly, gasp for breath (spouse may tell you) during sleep. Also seek a diagnosis and help from a specialist if you suspect PLMD or RLL (restles leg syndrome).
"I cannot fall asleep" - Twenty minutes is considered a reasonable amount of time to fall asleep. Obviously if you are stressed, angry, or if you've had serious caffeine intake - you may have problems falling asleep.
Solution? Track how much coffee and cola you drink AND read labels to see if caffeine is in food products as well. Be aware that drugs like Excedrin have caffeine. Turn your illuminated clock away from you. Keep a journal close by and write down negative feelings or ideas that you want to remember. Read up on "sleep hygiene" so you create a bedroom environment that encourages sleep.
"I just can't get up in the am" - if you keep hitting the alarm, feeling wasted and fatigued when you wake up, then you do need to check with a doctor and get assessed for possible apnea. Poor quality sleep caused by apnea could make you feel as if you barely slept. Another condition, DSP - Delayed Sleep Phase - makes it hard to fall asleep, so you wake up feeling like you really didn't sleep enough.
Solution? Stay up later each night until you feel that you will fall asleep deeply and stay asleep for 7-8 hours. If you suspect apnea as the cause, see a doctor.
"I fall asleep everytime I sit down during the day" - If you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep and none of the other health possibilities mentioned above is causing sleep issues, then you may have a condition called narcolepsy. This condition can be serious, since you do not want to experience sleepy moments at the wheel of a car.
Solution? Their are drug treatments for narcolepsy so do see a doctor for evaluation and treatment. If the cause is OSA - obstructive sleep apnea - you may need to lose weight and use a machine called the C-PAP.
Published On: November 20, 2008