Insomnia: Losing the Race to Catch Your ZZZ’s?

Susan Szulc, MD

Difficulty sleeping affects all of us at some time.  Often it’s temporary or situational.  But what happens when it doesn’t go away?

Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep are often signs of insomnia.  Chronic insomnia can go on for weeks or months and can cause difficulties in day-to-day functioning for individuals. When faced with this problem, the first things I ask are about sleeping habits.

What time do you go to sleep?  Do you go to sleep at the same time every night?  How much sleep do you get every night?  Do you take naps during the day?  What do you do when you can’t fall asleep?  Do you do other activities in bed, such as reading, studying or watching TV?  How much caffeine do you drink?  All of these habits contribute to “sleep hygiene,” which encourages healthy sleep.

Here are my top 7 ways to improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Try to go to sleep at the same time every day. A schedule makes it easier for your body to know when it’s supposed to be going to sleep.
  • Aim for an average of 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
  • No naps!  Napping may disrupt your natural sleep rhythm.  If you must nap, limit it to 30 minutes.
  • Your bed should not be used for studying, watching TV or reading.  You need to train your brain to associate the bed with sleep.
  • If you can’t fall asleep, get out of bed!  Move to a chair or couch and do an activity (like reading) that helps you relax and makes you sleepy.  Tossing and turning for hours doesn’t do you any good.  And you are building a negative subconscious association between the bed and restlessness.
  • Limit caffeine intake and don’t drink any caffeine past 2-3 pm.
  • Exercise!  People sleep better after just 20 minutes of exercise.  But don’t exercise too late in the evening as that can have the opposite effect.

Try to incorporate these healthy sleep habits for a better night’s sleep. If your unsuccessful, talk to your primary care physician about other alternatives, or ask for a referral to a sleep specialist.

About Dr. Susan Szulc
Susan V. Szulc, MD, is a board-certified internist with Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach. She received her bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Dr. Szulc earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, Va., where she also completed a residency in internal medicine. Dr. Szulc is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and American Medical Women’s Association. Dr. Szulc’s special interests include palliative care and hypertension.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Szulc please call (757) 305-1797!

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