In a recent segment on ABC News, Diane Sawyer spoke about the insomnia epidemic affecting American women. Today’s women are struggling to juggle the multiple demands on their time from jobs to families to finances and it is keeping them up at night. Lack of sleep contributes to several health problems and makes this juggling act even harder to manage.
Polling performed by the National Sleep Foundation found that 63% of women experience insomnia a few nights a week. According to the segment, almost 30% of women use sleeping pills to get the sleep they need a couple nights a week. But those in the sleep field are finding there may be more effective ways to treat and even cure long term insomnia.
The problem with sleep aids, according to the ABC segment, is that they don’t result in lasting change. Women may get the sleep they need when they take a sleeping pill, but that won’t make it easier to sleep on the nights that they don’t. This can lead to dependency issues over the long term and doesn’t offer a way out of insomnia. However, using cognitive behavior therapy to rewire the brain can effectively reset our internal sleep instinct.
In the segment, Diane Sawyer offered three tips for women who are struggling with insomnia and are looking for alternatives to sleep aids.
1. Tame Anxiety
If worries are keeping you up at night and aiding in your insomnia, take a minute before bed to write down things you need to remember or journal about what is making you anxious. Sometimes just getting troubling thoughts out of your head can help you fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation also recommends relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or guided relaxation to help quiet a tumultuous mind.
2. Restrict Sleep
While it might seem counterintuitive to restrict sleep in order to fix problems with insomnia, sleep restriction can be an effective way to modify sleep limiting behavior patterns. As outlined by the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, sleep restriction involves limiting the amount of time spent in bed to help improve overall sleep quality. The process starts by limiting the time spent in bed to the average number of hours the person is sleeping per night. If you go to bed at 10 and wake up at 6 but only sleep for about 6 hours, sleep restriction would change your time in bed to 12 to 6 AM. Over time, as the quality of sleep improves, time spent in bed in increases in 15 or 30 minute intervals until you are getting the sleep you need.
3. Use Your Bedroom Appropriately
If you are struggling with insomnia and getting to sleep at night, it is a good idea to take a step back and look at what is going on in your bedroom. If you are doing anything other than sleeping or having sex, you need to eliminate those other activities. Doing things like working, watching TV, or exercising in the bedroom can send mixed signals to your brain about what is supposed to be happening when you go to bed. By limiting bedroom activities to sleep and sex, you are creating space for sleep both in your home and in your head.
No matter what is keeping you up at night, if you are experiencing long term problems with insomnia or if lack of sleep is impacting your life, you should talk to your doctor and make sure you are not suffering from a sleep disorder.
About Valley Sleep Center:
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com.