A daily routine and daily exposure to sunlight help regulate sleep. Research backs this up and I see it in myself. My best sleeps come after days when I get up and out and do the things I do at the usual time.
Last night my sleep went off the rails, and I’m convinced the problem was at least partly related to light. Let me explain.
Poor sleeping conditions such as those found on planes can interfere with anyone’s sleep. But sleep onset insomniacs may find them particularly challenging, accustomed as we are to not falling asleep very quickly and being bothered by things that other sleepers readily tune out.
Why is it so hard for some insomniacs to fall asleep and what can help? Following are six ways to hold sleep onset insomnia at bay.
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.
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?”
If you’re prone to insomnia when it’s chilly outside, the problem may have to do with too little exposure to daylight in the colder months of the year. Working in well-lit conditions and using a light box may help to relieve your insomnia symptoms.
Sometimes I hear from people whose sleep problem sounds more like a circadian rhythm disorder than insomnia. Laurel wrote that she’d always been a night owl. So she was taking sleeping pills to get to sleep at night.
But if her problem is due to a delayed or sluggish body clock—if what she has is delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD)—she’d be better off with other types of treatment. Here’s more:
The brains of people with insomnia are active at night, even during quiet sleep. This activity isn’t often noted in sleep studies, where the point is to identify dominant wave forms. But looking closer, scientists are discovering slight but crucial differences in insomniacs’ brain waves at night, which may explain our trouble falling and staying asleep.
“Alpha wave intrusion” is a term used to describe the wake-like brain activity observed during the deep sleep of people with fibromyalgia and major depression. Now a new study in the Journal of Sleep Research presents evidence of abnormal alpha wave activity in insomniacs’ brains at night. Here are the two main findings: