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?”
Anxiety about sleep is a problem for some insomnia sufferers. Fear of sleeplessness is the main thing keeping them awake at night.
Here’s how sleep anxiety develops and how to tone it down.
Can chronic insomnia make you less attractive? speed up the aging of skin? cause irreversible damage to your face?
I heard these concerns as I interviewed insomniacs for my book. But recently I decided to check into them after receiving an email from a woman whose anxiety about her appearance was extreme:
“I have nights when I can’t sleep at all and other nights when I sleep a lot,” Philippa wrote last week. “If I don’t fall asleep straight away I find I often don’t sleep the whole night! Do you think sleep restriction would work for me?”
My answer to Philippa’s question is an unqualified “yes.” But first I want to look at sleep that’s inconsistent and unpredictable and how anxious it can make you feel.
Lately I’ve been hearing from people who improved their sleep using sleep restriction or full-blown CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) and then experience a relapse. They have a few bad nights and fear they’ve lost all the gains they made. Here’s how one reader recently described her plight:
“I realize that sometimes I will get scared when I have one or two bad nights once in a while. I’m afraid that insomnia will haunt me once again. Is this normal? What can I do?”
“I’m on Day 4 of SRT and it isn’t going well,” Jenny wrote recently. “I finally had an appointment with a sleep therapist last week. He talked to me about SRT and gave me a 7-hour sleep window, from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. My usual bedtime is 9:30 so I had some apprehensions. But I started 4 days ago.
“Since then I haven’t slept more than 3 hours a night. It’s really hard for me to stay up till 11, and then when I get in bed I’m wide awake! In the morning I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open! Is this normal? I’m afraid I may be a treatment failure. Any advice?”
Some people have trouble sleeping when the days get shorter. I’m one of them and so is Gabriel, who recently wrote in wondering how to improve his sleep:
“I was born close to the equator in Brazil, and I usually don’t have problems sleeping when I’m there or during the summer time in Canada, where I live now. But winter is around the corner, and my sleeping problems have just begun again. I usually go to bed at 11 p.m. but wake up around 3 a.m. However, in the summer my wake time is 7 a.m. I feel irritated, depressed and cannot concentrate. . . Is light treatment the way to go?”