A reader—I’ll call her Chantal—wrote in June with questions about insomnia and sleep restriction. A few weeks ago I heard from her again:
I’m now in week 6 of sleep restriction and I have to say my sleep is getting better. I mostly sleep for 5.5 hours a night. When I started it was 3.
But the last couple of nights, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and had trouble falling back to sleep. I have no idea why I’m waking up. Do you have any tips for staying asleep?
Last week Dan wrote to Ask The Savvy Insomniac with questions about cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). Dan has bipolar disorder, and because of this diagnosis, his sleep doctor had reservations about him undergoing CBT-I.
So Dan tried a modified version for 2 weeks. His sleep did not improve. He was wondering if he would have to use sleeping pills and if he should continue with CBT-I on his own.
Keisha was wondering whether to have a sleep study.
“I asked my doctor to give me something for my insomnia,” she wrote, “but he wants me to have a sleep study first. He thinks I might have sleep apnea. I don’t think I do. I don’t snore (as far as I know). I wake up a lot at night but I’m not short of breath or gasping for air.
“Besides, how could I get any sleep at all with those wires attached to my head! You say sleep studies aren’t helpful for people with insomnia. So what’s your opinion here? Should I have a sleep study or will it just be a waste of my time?”
A long-term user of sleeping pills wrote to Ask The Savvy Insomniac with questions about cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia. “Before I go through CBT, will I have to give up my sleeping pills? I’d like to get off them eventually, but every time I think of doing it I freak out.”
Recently I looked into research on insomnia sufferers going through CBT while at the same time tapering off (or reducing reliance on) sleeping pills. What I found was encouraging.
Jessica recently wrote with concerns about sleep restriction.
I’m on Day 6 of sleep restriction and I don’t think it’s working. The first 3 nights were miserable. I kept looking at the clock and thinking, just 4 more hours to sleep, just 3 more, just 2 . . . I had so much anxiety I hardly slept at all!
Am I just going to have to resign myself to insomnia for the rest of my life? Honestly I’m on the verge of giving up.
“Tart cherry juice is supposed to help with sleep,” a reader wrote to Ask The Savvy Insomniac a few days ago. “But is there any real evidence for this? Usually I don’t pay much attention to these claims. I assume they’re made by industries hyping their products. Anyway, if certain foods COULD help control insomnia, wouldn’t we know that by now?”
A few studies do suggest that tart cherry juice may be helpful to people with insomnia.
I’ve just heard of melatonin replacement therapy, a reader wrote last week to Ask The Savvy Insomniac, and I’m wondering if I should look into it. I’m 61. I never used to have problems with insomnia but now I wake up a lot at night. Over-the-counter melatonin does nothing for me. Is the melatonin used in replacement therapy somehow different?
If there’s a seasonal pattern to your insomnia, reduced light exposure could be the culprit. People in northerly latitudes are exposed to little daylight in the winter, and this can have a negative effect on circadian rhythms and worsen sleep.