Sleep-onset insomnia—trouble falling asleep at the beginning of the night—has been one of the biggest challenges in my life. By now, having gone through insomnia therapy and spent decades observing how changes in behavior and the environment affect my sleep, I know what I need to do—and what not to do—to get the best night’s sleep I can.
If you’ve got sleep-onset insomnia, here are 8 do’s and don’ts that may help to regularize your sleep.
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.
Have you had insomnia all your life? Have your parents said you were a poor sleeper even as a baby?
Trouble sleeping that starts early in life is called idiopathic insomnia. If insomnia is still the black box of sleep disorders, then idiopathic insomnia is the little black box inside the black box.
Here’s what is known about the disorder and options for management.
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.
Do you tend to dwell on upsetting thoughts? Does your arousal thermostat feel like it’s set too high, making it hard for your body to relax and fall or stay asleep? Insomnia is often described as a disorder of hyperarousal, yet how and why the hyperarousal develops is unclear.
Now a team of 13 sleep scientists from three countries have taken findings from different lines of research, conducted a study of their own, and come up with a plausible explanation for why our minds and bodies feel like they’re stuck in overdrive and just can’t stop. Here’s what may lie behind our trouble falling and staying asleep.
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:
Would you be willing to undergo nearly 24 hours of sleep deprivation if by doing so you could learn to fall asleep more quickly?
This is pretty much the bargain you make if you undergo Intensive Sleep Retraining (ISR), a treatment developed in Australia to help people with insomnia learn to fall asleep more easily. The idea behind ISR is that trouble falling asleep is mainly conditioned, involving negative beliefs about sleep, and worry about sleep loss, and poor sleep hygiene. The goal is to get rid of these impediments and make it easier to fall asleep.
A polysomnographic technologist says insomnia sufferers can achieve the same results using a new iPhone app.
You wouldn’t think dietary choices would differentiate people who have trouble falling asleep from people who have trouble staying asleep. But apparently they do.
This is the conclusion of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, who looked at data collected from over 4,500 participants in a national health survey. The diet of people with sleep-onset insomnia is different from the diet of people with sleep-maintenance insomnia, and both groups make different dietary choices than people who sleep well. It’s possible that making changes to your diet will improve your sleep.