Do You Have Insomnia? Here’s What Might Be Causing Your Lack Of Sleep
Find A Reason For Your Insomnia
Instead of counting sheep, try tallying the many things that can cause insomnia, such as sleeping pills, nighttime noshing, stress and hormonal changes.
If it’s been years since you slept like a baby, you’re not alone: An estimated 25 to 30 percent of American adults suffer from insomnia. The figures are even greater for people over 65. Men start out with a higher rate of sleep issues, but women catch up to them by around age 50.
Here are eight reasons you’re having trouble reaching, or staying in, the Land of Nod and what you can do about it:
1. You’re stressed.
Stress keeps you revved up and interferes with the biological processes that would normally help you fall asleep at the end of the day. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), a branch of cognitive behavioral therapy targeted to those with sleep issues, is especially helpful for tense people and is the first-line treatment for most sleep disorders.
“This is a regimented program, with five to six sessions,” says Dr. Joseph Andrew Berkowski, a neurologist at the University of Michigan.
A sleep psychologist trained in CBT-I may, for instance, ask you to keep a sleep diary, recommend avoiding naps, train you to get out of bed when you can’t sleep and help you change thoughts that may make it hard to nod off.
“This is by far the most effective long-term therapy for people with chronic insomnia, those with sleep problems on a night-to-night basis,” Berkowski says.
However, there’s a scarcity of CBT-I practitioners in the U.S. — most are clustered at major academic and VA medical centers. But recently, research has validated the efficacy of CBT-I done remotely by computer. In the November, 2016 issue of JAMA Psychiatry, an analysis of SHUTi ($135), a six-week online course, found that the treatment helped participants fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer both shortly after the program and a year later. A London-based program called Sleepio($300) has also received some validation in studies.
2. You get up at different times during the week.
“If you have a consistent routine, your sleep will be of higher quality and you’ll feel better in the day,” says Berkowski. But many people with regular jobs sleep late on weekends to make up for what they miss during the week, resulting in insomnia when they go back to work.
Erratic sleep schedules can also happen when people retire and no longer adhere to a rigid timetable, says Dr. Karl Doghramji, medical director of the Jefferson Sleep Disorders Center at Thomas Jefferson University.
The solution is to awaken at the same hour each day. “The time you go to bed is not as important as the time you wake up, because that’s when the body’s clock starts,” Berkowski notes.
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