Medical research continues to give us more knowledge about health, nutrition, and the workings of the human body, but a common roadblock for ideal health is lack of restorative sleep. Sleep is required for best brain function, hormone balance and to improve focus and overall energy for daily life.

To find out if you have insomnia, ask yourself:

  1. Do you have trouble falling asleep?
  2. Do you have trouble staying asleep?
  3. Do you wake up too early?

If any of these apply to you, read on to find out more.

Chronic sleep disorder is what happens when you have disrupted sleep at least three times a week for more than three months, not caused by time restriction or environmental interruptions. For adults, this includes taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. In children, it is taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep.

Women tend to report sleep disruption 50% more than men do, though it is possible that they are only more likely to report it rather than more likely to have disruption. Risk factors for insomnia include poor health, family history of insomnia, mental vulnerability, and acute stress.

There are a wide range of medications available, but several lifestyle options should be considered before seeking medication. Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe healthy behaviors about sleep, and includes:

  • Sleeping as long as necessary to feel restored (ask your doctor if this isn’t compatible with your daily needs)
  • Don’t force sleep
  • Avoid smoking and nicotine
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol near bedtime
  • Avoid daytime naps longer than 20 minutes
  • Exercise
  • Avoid light-emitting screens near bedtime
  • Maintain a quiet, dark, comfortable sleep environment

Other alternatives include behavioral therapy and sleep restriction therapy, which can be discussed with a doctor or therapist experienced with these techniques. They have been particularly effective for people who have developed anxiety before going to bed, knowing they may not get to sleep.

Beyond disrupted sleep, many people don’t get enough sleep to feel rested and restored. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following guidelines for amount of sleep based on age:

0-3 months: 14-17 hours

4-11 months: 12-15 hours

1-2 years: 11-14 hours

3-5 years: 10-13 hours

6-13 years: 9-11 hours

14-17 years: 8-10 hours

18-64 years: 7-9 hours

65 and over: 7-8 hours

Many people need help sorting out sleep vs stress, short-term vs long term, and physical vs mental causes. You are encouraged to bring these questions and concerns to your primary care provider and remember that this blog is intended to be a helpful tool only. There are always scenarios that need to be handled individually, and may even warrant a sleep medicine consult. Medications aren’t covered here, but your provider may address them as part of your treatment plan.

CFM’s goal is to optimize all facets of your health, and healthy sleep is at the foundation of both a healthy body and mind!

Want to read more? Check out our previous blog post on sleep.

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