Having a satisfying sleep is vital to our physical and mental health. Insomnia can present as difficulty falling asleep, difficulty maintaining sleep and/or a decrease in sleep quality. Poor sleep during the night can leave you unrefreshed and tired in the morning. It causes other problems like decreased alertness, irritability, depression, alcohol abuse, decreased prodductivity and a decrease in quality of life. Insomnia can also lead to significant weight gain over time.
Causes of insomnia ranges from environmental factors like noise; to medical conditions like heartburn and restless legs syndrome. Stressful conditions can also affect your sleep. So can your diet and level of activity. Most people are unable to figure out why they are having problems getting to sleep or staying asleep.
Whenever I talk to a patient about sleep disorders, I start with recommendations that are based on adjusting habits and lifestyles to help with sleep quality. If a change in habit can improve sleep, it is certainly better and safer than drug therapy. Here are some recommendations. Feel free to comment below and let me know if you have more suggestions that might have worked for you.
- Try to get to sleep at the same time every night. Try to wake up at the same time in the morning. This helps you establish regular sleep patterns. If you are struggling with a sleep disorder, avoid sleeping in or having naps during the day. It can make it even more difficult to sleep at night.
- Get regular exercise daily. Being active during the day has been shown to improve the quality of sleep. Be cautious of exercising very close to bedtime though – it can keep you up longer than desired.
- Avoid caffeine or nicotine at least 4 hours before bedtime. Avoid caffeine or nicotine if you wake up in the middle of the night. Smoking cessation is always encouraged to help prevent and improve a lot of medical conditions including sleep disorders. Talk to us about options to help you quit.
- Alcohol can disrupt your sleep. Although it can make you feel drowsy, it can end up keeping you up in the middle of the night. If you usually take alcohol in the evenings, try skipping for about a week to see if your sleep improves.
- Avoid large meals in the evenings. Try a light carbohydrate snack like crackers and warm milk before bed if needed.
- Get quiet time before lights out. A warm bath before bed or reading a book can get you nodding off earlier. Trying different options and listening to your body will help you find out what works best for you. Avoid activities that keep you alert at least 30 minutes before bedtime
- Try herbal teas like valerian or chamomile before bedtime. They can help with initiating sleep.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleep and intimacy. Our body is intelligent and easily adjusts to our habits. You are more likely to fall asleep if your body is not busy wondering what you are about to do…phone call? browsing? some music or some sleep? 🙂
- Use earplugs if your surrounding is noisy. Reduce bright lights in your bedroom. If you get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, put on a dim light (bedside light for example) rather than bright lights. Bright lights can get you wide-awake and make it more difficult to get back to sleep. Also, check to make sure your room is not too hot or too cold so that sleep quality is improved.
- If you become wide awake in the middle of the night, leave the bedroom and return when you are more drowsy.
- Turn the face of the clock away from your bed. Use alarms instead to get up in the morning. If you are already worried about the amount of sleep you are getting, looking at the clock will likely set off an involuntary reaction if you are dismayed by the time. This emotional reaction gets you more awake and less likely to get back to sleep.
- Getting stress under control will help you sleep better. Ways to relieve stress include yoga and meditation. It also helps to learn to say “no” to more than you can handle. Granted, this is not always possible in some situations so always remember to reserve some time for yourself to relax.
- If pain is keeping you up at night, talk to your pharmacist/doctor about options that might help relieve pain. Compounded topical pain medications is an option that can help you control pain while reducing the incidence of side effects. We offer compounding services at the pharmacy to help tailor your medication to your needs.
While trying these suggestions above, have some patience and give it a couple of weeks before deciding if they are helpful or not. Some of these recommendations are also good for overall health so you gain either way.
If you make no headway with these recommendations, it might help to talk further with the pharmacist about over-the-counter supplements and medications that might help improve sleep. Make sure you understand the right way to take them and when to go to your doctor.
I hope these recommendations were helpful. Feel free to share. If you need to talk more about this topic or any other health topic for that matter, give us a call or drop in and visit us at Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, 105 – 3957 Lakeshore road, Kelowna, 778-477-3811. You can also use the comment section below or our Contact Us page to ask your questions.
We always have health-focused services going on at the pharmacy. They are tailored to give you extra support and monitoring while getting you to your health goals. Click here to find out if any of them might be of interest to you. Call us if you need more information about these services including our pharmacist-supervised weight loss program.
Thanks and as always, take care.