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 can train to run a marathon. You can train yourself to recognize Chopin. But can you train yourself to sleep (or train yourself not to have insomnia)?
Michael Schwartz, creator of the Sleep On Cue iPhone app, says yes.
You may know you’ve got insomnia. But could you prove it?
Researchers use pencil-and-paper tests to assess different aspects of sleep: sleep quality, insomnia severity, sleep reactivity, and sleep-related beliefs. If you’re unfamiliar with these questionnaires, you may find it interesting to look at them and see how you score.
It happens every year in the spring: someone writes in to The Savvy Insomniac complaining of an inexplicable onset of insomnia. No stress is involved, no abrupt change in circumstances.
If you find yourself experiencing insomnia at about this time every year, the problem may have to do with lengthening days. The solution may lie in reducing your exposure to sunlight.
First, the good news: a small body of research suggests that tart cherry juice holds promise as an alternative treatment for insomnia, especially in older adults.
Now for the bad news: tart cherry juice, already pricey, is set to become pricier still as growers weigh whether to give up on cherries and plant apple trees instead. Here’s more on the benefits of tart cherry juice for sleep and why it may soon become scarce.
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:
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?”
Trouble sleeping is common in women at menopause, or so conventional thinking goes. Yet the latest word is that it’s during perimenopause when the trouble starts to brew.
Genetic factors may partly explain why insomnia is more common in women than in men. But hormonal changes during perimenopause and later in life are often cited as a more proximal cause of sleep problems that occur in midlife and older women.