Photo by laflor/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by laflor/iStock / Getty Images


What are the consequences of insomnia

Science has proven that sleep deprivation reduces productivity at work and at school. Reducing sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night reduces daytime alertness by about one-third. Some studies also link poor sleep with increased susceptibility to ulcers, heart disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, and an early death. Sleep deprivation can cause highway fatalities and lead to other dangers.  Lack of shuteye can have a negative effect on relationships: reducing sex, increasing arguments, and moving partners into separate quarters.

  What does the research say about Treatment?

  Cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT), such as relaxation techniques, have been shown to be more  effective than sleep medications for insomnia (1).  Furthermore, a consensus statement by the National Institutes of Health concluded that drug therapy involves risk of dependency and tolerance (2). Three meta-analyses have concluded that 70% to 80% of middle-aged adults with insomnia benefit from psychotherapy techniques tailored toward insomnia (3).         

 Sleep Tips:

  • It is important to develop a pre-sleep ritual to separate the day’s work and stress from bedtime.  One way to do this is to write down on the left column of a page the things on your mind: problems, worries, regrets, etc.  On the right column, make a list of what you can do about these things either tomorrow or in the near future. Do not engage in work after completing this exercise. Follow this exercise up with a period of relaxation – hot bath, light reading, aromatherapy, soothing music, meditation
  • Regulating our circadian rhythm is one of the most important elements of getting good sleep. Go to sleep within two hours and arise within one hour of the same time every day, even on weekends. For some people, it is helpful to dim the lights two hours prior to bedtime and to get out in bright sunshine for 10-20 minutes as soon as you arise to help set your brain's internal clock to your sleep-wake schedule.
  • The bed should be used for sleep only. Avoid watching TV, eating, and discussing emotional issues in bed. Make the bedroom into a sanctuary. Try aromatherapy, candles, soothing music, linen sprays scented with soothing lavender or rose.
  • Minimize light, noise, and temperature extremes during sleep with window blinds, ear plugs, white-noise maker, an electric blanket or air conditioner. Even the slightest nighttime noises or luminescent lights can disrupt the quality of your sleep. If you need to get up at night, use a small night-light instead of turning on a bright light.
  • Do not drink a lot of fluids in the evening. You want to reduce awakenings due to urination.
  • Try to avoid naps.  If you do nap, do it no closer than 8 hours from lights out, and for less than 30 minutes.
  • Some people find a light snack, such as cereal (milk contains sleep inducing L-tryptophan), helpful in falling asleep.  Avoid eating larger meals within 3 hours of bedtime - an active digestive system interferes with sleep. 
  • An aerobic exercise routine can be helpful in getting a good night’s sleep. For most people, it is important not to engage in vigorous exercise within 3 hours of bedtime. 
  • Cigarettes are a stimulant and should be avoided before sleeping and upon awakening at night. Although a smoke before bed may feel relaxing, it is putting a stimulant into your bloodstream that interferes with deep sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours prior to bedtime. For some people large amounts of caffeine consumed early in the day has an effect on sleep. Studies suggest that no more than 100 mg is needed for a pick-me-up.  The following drinks contain caffeine: a 16 oz. cup of coffee (200-600 mg), 16 oz. soda (50-75 mg), tea (50-75 mg), and various over-the-counter medications (65-130 mg). 
  • Alcohol is associated with sleep difficulties. Although some people use it to fall asleep, the metabolism that clears it from the body while sleeping often leads to awakenings, nightmares, and sweats.
  • Avoid obsessing about your insomnia. Insomnia creates a pattern of fearful thinking.  The fear of not falling asleep can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sleep happens on its own when you follow the rest of the tips. Added effort or fear does not help. Trust that by reading this your sleep is already on its way to regulating itself (see audio). If your body is not ready to sleep within 30 minutes, get out of bed and engage in some light reading.
  • Sometimes difficulty sleeping is a indication that you are not dealing with aspects of your life that are troubling you – job tension, family conflict, apprehension about your future. A psychologist may be supportive in addressing these underlying strains.