These days people are worried about jobs, health care, the environment, the possibility of worldwide war. Uncertainty about the future, and fear of negative outcomes, may rob even reliable sleepers of sleep from time to time.
But for many insomnia sufferers, worry and anxiety about sleep itself—“It’s two o’clock and I haven’t slept a wink!”; “If I don’t get to sleep now I’ll get sick!”—is an equally powerful enemy of sleep.
Here’s more about worry and insomnia and how to keep them from spoiling the night.
Insomnia combined with other health problems is bound to cause distress.
But help is at hand. New research shows that tai chi reduced insomnia symptoms in breast cancer survivors, suggesting that it may help with insomnia linked to other health problems, too.
Here’s a complaint I often hear from insomniacs going through sleep restriction therapy: it’s hard to stay awake until bedtime. A related frustration comes with suddenly having extra time on your hands.
“I don’t know what to do with myself till 2:30 in the morning!” an insomnia sufferer groused to me.
Here are variations on 11 activities aimed at keeping you awake until the clock says it’s time to head to bed.
Let’s say you grow up in a family of champion sleepers, yourself included. At college, you sail through rowdy dormitory life sleeping like a log. Job interviews, stressful to some, don’t faze you. By 27, you’ve landed a good job and in a few years earned enough for a down payment on a house. Sleep is still dependable and stays that way for a decade.
Then, coinciding with a move and the birth of a second child, you find yourself wide awake at your normal bedtime, staring at walls. Soon this becomes the rule rather than the exception. Before you know it you’ve developed chronic insomnia. How can sleep go from good to bad so quickly?
A reader named Gunjan recently asked a question about trouble sleeping due to temperature changes at night. Here it is, lightly edited:
“It seems my body is very sensitive to temperature while I am sleeping. Many times it has happened that I went to bed at an optimal temperature. But as soon as my body sleeps, I wake up feeling too cold. Then I go to bed after switching off the fan or covering myself with the bed sheet but then I can’t sleep because I’m too hot. This is quite frustrating. . . . Does anybody . . . have any help to offer?”
You may have been a couch potato for most of your life, but now, if you’re middle-aged and envisioning a healthy retirement, you’d better change your ways.
Moderate-to-vigorous exercise can mitigate some effects of aging, including poor sleep quality and cognitive decline. Research generally supports this claim, so especially if you’re prone to insomnia, you’ll want to check this out.
Might Ayurvedic medicine—traditional medicine practiced in India for 3,000 years—offer an effective treatment for insomnia?
If you’re looking for an alternative treatment vetted by scientists in controlled clinical trials, the answer is no. But an Indian herb called ashwagandha is receiving attention as a substance that might help people with several health conditions, including chronic stress, anxiety, and memory loss. It’s also being studied as a possible sleep aid. Here’s more about it.
Let’s say that after years of experiencing insomnia you go in for a sleep study only to find out you have obstructive sleep apnea. Who knew? You’re outfitted with a breathing mask, you wear it as prescribed, and your sleep improves . . . somewhat.
But your insomnia symptoms are persistent, and you don’t have the kind of stamina you’d like during the day. What then?