Can’t sleep? What you should and shouldn’t do next

Can't sleep? What you should and shouldn't do next

Insomnia hits everyone, and unless it’s persistent or chronic, it’s a normal part of life. Here are some tips to help you deal with the occasional episode.

Getting out of bed

Studies have shown than when we can’t sleep and stay in bed, several things can happen: internal stress and conflict can be increased because you are focusing on the fact that you’re not sleeping, which often means the problem worsens.

  • If you’ve been lying awake for more than a half hour or so, get up and do something else like meditating, reading or knitting.
  • Beds are for sleeping — if you can’t sleep, get up and take your mind off the problem.

What to avoid

Most doctors agree that watching soothing television is a good idea, although sports and other high-energy programs should be avoided.

  • Many doctors advise that patients prone to insomnia refrain from consuming caffeine or excessive alcoholic beverages late in the day.
  • Most advise against heavy dinners, especially close to bed time.
  • Tempted to get out of bed and get online? Some doctors advise against this, as the light from the computer screen (or smartphone or tablet) can send “awake” messages to your brain.

Pinpoint the cause

The most common reasons for insomnia are stress and physical pain.

  • If you’re stressing out over a problem at work and can’t turn your brain off, the best idea is to get out of bed and write down your concerns in one column and how you might deal with the situation in the other column.
  • Come up with a solution. Then put the paper in a drawer and slide it shut.

To cope with physical pain, like sports injuries or arthritis, consult a doctor for an appropriate treatment.

  • Remember that painkillers taken well into the night can make you groggy the next day.

When to seek help

If your insomnia is persistent and goes on for days, then it may be time to talk to your doctor.

  • He or she can run tests to pinpoint underlying causes like sleep apnea that may require treatment.
  • Talk to your doctor about the advisability of sleep-inducing medication and which, if any, of a wide range of medications would be best for you.

Sporadic insomnia happens to everyone. When you address the issue calmly and purposefully, it’s possible to lull yourself back to sleep.


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