Some health officials believe sleep disorders are the nation’s leading medical problem. An estimated 40 million people suffer chronic sleep disorders. Another 20 million to 30 million have occasional sleep problems.
Many people believe that a drink or two before bedtime will help them sleep. That’s true, initially – drinking alcohol may cut down on the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. However, during the second half of sleep, alcohol has the opposite effect. Studies show that even one or two drinks six hours before bedtime can cause a person to awaken more quickly and have a hard time getting back to sleep.
As many as half of the women participating in a National Sleep Foundation study had at least one sleep-related problem in the month before the study. To cope, many women nap frequently, and nearly one in three uses a prescribed or over-the-counter medication to help them sleep.
Normal aging is accompanied by a gradual decrease in deeper sleep and an increase in nighttime wakefulness. In response, many elderly people turn to alcohol or medications to help them sleep. Unfortunately, this only places them at risk for other problems such as addiction and an increased risk for falls.
Most sleep problems are based on lifestyle choices. For those who find a good night’s sleep hard to come by, consider the following:
- Follow the same sleep schedule each night, even on your days off.
- Don’t oversleep. Just a couple of days of oversleeping can reset your body clock to a different sleep cycle.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Avoid late-night snacks.
- If you’re easily awakened by noises, run a fan or humidifier.
- Exercise. Being physically active helps ensure restful sleep.
- Don’t study or get into a stimulating discussion about a half hour or hour before sleep.
- Don’t use sleep aids. Either prescribed or over-the-counter sleep aids may work in the short run, but they don’t solve the problem in the long run.
If you still have trouble sleeping, you may need to consult a healthcare professional. It’s common for someone to have a sleep disorder and not even realize it.
A yes answer to any of these questions indicates you may want to talk to a healthcare professional about your sleep problem.
- Do you snore loudly?
- Do you gasp and choke in your sleep?
- Do you spend eight or more hours in bed, but still feel as though you haven’t had enough sleep?
- Do you take frequent naps?
- Do you fall asleep at strange times, such as during meetings or at concerts or the movies?
- Do you have trouble getting to sleep, or do you wake up for a few hours during the night?
Just talking about your problems sometimes leads to
new solutions. If you or someone you know needs information, guidance or help, call our Respond
program at 1-800-366-1132. Respond offers
confidential, caring assessments and referrals for individuals dealing with problems related to
mental health issues and substance abuse.
If you or a loved one are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 immediately.