How can I get to sleep and stay asleep all night?
For a long time I would toss and turn in bed, and I wondered, was it sleeplessness or insomnia? Hmm. Either way, no matter how many sheep I counted, sleep didn’t come easily, nor was it a promise I’d stay a sleep. I felt like I had tried everything, but nothing was working. I got really frustrated… for a while. So, since I am a researcher by nature, the hunt for help began.
If any of this sounds familiar, you might be suffering from sleeplessness or insomnia. If you have difficulties falling asleep, or staying asleep, and it doesn’t seem to go away, you also know the problems it can lead to in the daytime, such as fatigue, low energy, irritability, and gloomy moods.
So what do you have? Sleeplessness or Insomnia?
It’s a matter of “how long.” Insomnia is commonly called sleeplessness. If, for a period shorter than one month, you have problems getting to sleep, or remaining asleep for the night, you kind of do, but don’t have actual insomnia (at this point). Diagnosis is categorized according to time:
- Less than one month: you may be experiencing transient sleeplessness
- Lasting for more than one and fewer than six months: the diagnosis is insomnia
- More than six months: you have “achieved” chronic insomnia
Sleeplessness is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia is when a person has sleeplessness plus poor quality of sleep. Many people have sleeplessness or insomnia at some point in their lives. Sleeplessness can be short-term (acute) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia). Both can happen at any age, but it is more common in older adults. Both can cause problems during the day, such as feeling tired, having trouble concentrating, and being irritable. It can also lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, and depression.
Insomnia or acute sleeplessness is nothing to try to suffer through.
What can cause sleep issues?
There are a many things that can cause sleeplessness or insomnia, including stress, anxiety, certain medications, breathing disorders, restless leg syndrome, heart disease, diabetes and underlying health conditions. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s important to talk to your doctor to see if there might be an underlying health condition you need to be aware of and treated for.
Sleeplessness or Insomnia: what it is and how to fix it
There are many things that can cause sleeplessness or insomnia, including:
- sleep apnea
- restless leg syndrome
- certain diseases or health conditions
- prolonged idleness
The truth about sleeplessness and how to fix it
The treatment for sleeplessness or insomnia depends on the cause. If sleeplessness or insomnia is caused by stress, anxiety, or depression, treatment may include counseling and medication. If sleeplessness or insomnia is caused by a medical condition, such as sleep apnea, treatment may include wearing a mask during sleep or having surgery. If sleeplessness or insomnia is caused by medications or substances, such as caffeine or alcohol, the best treatment is to avoid them.
Common complaints as to what people experience when trying to sleep,
- difficulty falling asleep – tuning out for the night seems impossible at times.
- trouble staying asleep through the night – there are nights when it seems like sleep just won’t come no matter how tired you are.
- tossing and turning – you check the clock every hour until finally giving up and getting out of bed to start your day feeling exhausted.
- waking up then having a hard time getting back to sleep – as you are just lying awake for long periods during the night.
- consistently not being able to sleep past too early o’clock in the morning – the never ending night.
- can’t turn off their thoughts – worries about work, family, or world events keeps your brain racing at bedtime.
How sleeplessness or Insomnia affects your life
Sleeplessness or insomnia can have a major impact on your quality of life, negatively affecting your mood, energy level, and ability to concentrate during the day. There are many potential causes of sleeplessness or insomnia, and it’s important to figure out what if causing it.
Again, your lack of sleep can also lead to serious health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
There are also underlying health conditions that can cause sleeplessness or insomnia. If you’re experiencing either problem on a regular basis, it’s best to speak to a doctor to, and hopefully rule that out, or take care of it.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your overall health and well-being. If you’re having trouble sleeping, don’t suffer in silence. Seek help.
Sleeplessness: What works and what doesn’t
At this point, you’ve probably read the usual advice. You know, taking a warm bath, reading a book, or doing some gentle stretching. You may have already tried avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed. So, what else is there?
To be fair to the medical advice we read about, here’s a quick list of the usual advice you get (just in case)…
- establish a regular sleep schedule – i.e. go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
(I do this naturally but it didn’t help.)
- avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
(agree with avoiding caffeine, but let’s get realistic about cocktail hour and say a drink in the early evening doesn’t hurt my sleep)
- avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime – i.e. working or using electronic devices in bed
(in this day and age, I think that’s quite a difficult thing to do – basically, to me, unrealistic – maybe you can do it…??)
- practice relaxation techniques before bedtime
(this does work for me especially through meditation)
- create a calm and comfortable sleep environment
(sounds good, I have dark green walls, bought a comfy bed and good pillows – it helped!)
- get up and move around during the day – i.e. exercise can help you sleep better at night
(I find this to be true, the more physical movement during the day, the better I sleep)
- talk to your doctor if sleeplessness or insomnia doesn’t go away or ease up measurably
Agreed. If you are still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. But here’s where I come in with some extra tips because I used to have this problem and most of the complaints I’ve listed in this post. So, here’s my two cents…
Natural remedies for a good night’s sleep
(Bet you could have guessed I’d talk about this, right?) Herbs and natural remedies that can help include melatonin, valerian, chamomile tea, meditation, aromatherapy and others.
- Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your body naturally produces less melatonin as you age. Melatonin supplements can help you fall asleep and stay asleep (See my take next.)
- Chamomile tea is a herbal tea made from the chamomile plant. Chamomile tea has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for sleeplessness. Chamomile tea has a calming effect and can help you relax and fall asleep.
- Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to promote well-being. Aromatherapy can help you relax and may improve your sleep quality. Sleeping oils include lavender, chamomile, and jasmine.
- Lavender is an herb that has a calming and relaxing effect. Lavender oil can be used in aromatherapy to help you relax and fall asleep. Lavender oil works by increasing levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep.
- Valerian is an herb that has been used for centuries to treat sleeplessness and insomnia. Valerian root extract or tablets can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Valerian also works by increasing levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which is (as previously mentioned) a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. (Coming up next, I explain how it works for me. Keep reading.)
- Lemon balm is a herb that has a calming and relaxing effect. Lemon balm tea can help you relax and fall asleep. Lemon balm tea also works by increasing levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain and is similar ins effect to Lavender.
- Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium can help relax muscles and reduce stress. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to sleeplessness. The supplements can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. (I seem to get enough magnesium in my diet. Get a blood panel from your doctor.)
- Tryptophan is an amino acid that is involved in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. Tryptophan supplements can also help you fall asleep and stay asleep. (Think about after your Thanksgiving turkey… don’t you get super sleepy?)
- Meditation is a technique that helps you focus and clear your mind. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can make it easier to sleep.
What really works for a better night’s sleep?
Know what your mind and body are dealing with, get informed, work through the possible causes, try solutions to find what works for you. (Wikipedia has an informative article here.)
What worked for me, may or may not work for you, but I’ll mention what did help:
- Valerian – this does a very good job in knocking me out and keeping me asleep for 6 or more hours (works every time I take it)
- Melatonin – this puts me to sleep if, when I take it, I’m prepared to fall asleep within about 15 minutes (get distracted and it doesn’t help)
- Meditation – this works well for me in getting to sleep but it doesn’t always lead to a full night’s sleep (HeadSpace is a favorite of mine)
Lastly, let’s look at some quite common questions and answers that might help or at least shed some light…
FAQs – Causes and Solutions
Why do I keep waking up every hour or so at night?
There are many things that can cause this, including:
- sleep apnea
- restless leg syndrome
The best treatment depends on the cause. If the cause is stress, anxiety, or depression, treatment may include counseling and medication. If the cause is medications, the best route is to talk to your doctor about changing medications. If the cause is sleep apnea, you may include wearing a mask during sleep or look into surgery. If the cause is restless leg syndrome (I had this), your best bet is to avoid things that can make it worse, such as lack of exercise, iron deficiency, caffeine and alcohol.
What is restless leg syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome is when a person has an urge to move their legs, usually because of an uncomfortable feeling. This can cause sleeplessness or insomnia. Restless leg syndrome can also lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Again, the best solution for restless leg syndrome is to avoid things that can make it worse, yep… caffeine and alcohol.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is when a person has pauses in their breathing or breathes shallowly while sleeping. This can cause sleeplessness or insomnia. Sleep apnea can also lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: This is when the airway is blocked.
- Central sleep apnea: This is when the brain does not send signals to the muscles to breathe.
What should I do if I have sleep apnea?
If you have or think you have sleep apnea, it’s important to see your doctor. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can cause many health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Treatment for sleep apnea may include wearing a mask during sleep or having surgery.
I wake up and can’t get back to sleep, what should I do?
You can try to fall back asleep with:
- relaxation techniques
- listening to calm music
- writing for a bit in a journal
- stretching or doing gentle yoga
If you are still having trouble falling back asleep, talk to your doctor. They may be able to help you find the cause of your sleepless.
What is “blue light” and how does it affect my sleep?
Blue light is a type of light that is emitted from screens, such as phones, computers, and TVs. This light can disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle and cause sleeplessness or insomnia. The best way to avoid this is to avoid using screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
What is the best way to wake up feeling rested?
The usual advice may work for you to help you wake up feeling rested, including:
- establishing a regular sleep schedule
- avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
- avoiding screens for at least an hour before bedtime
- practicing relaxation techniques before bedtime
- creating a calm and comfortable sleep environment
As you know, I use natural remedies to help me fall asleep and rest comfortably through the night.
Can my bed be causing my sleep issues?
Of the things that can cause sleeplessness or insomnia, a bad bed is one of them. If you think your bed might be the cause of your sleep issues, there are a few obvious things you can do to try to improve your sleep, including:
- a new mattress
- a new pillow
- a mattress topper
- wash your sheets and blankets regularly
How much sleep do I actually need?
Most people need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a day. However, some people need more or less depending on their age, lifestyle, and health.
What does age have to do with how much sleep I should get?
Age does play a role in how much sleep a person needs. Newborns usually need about 16 hours of sleep a day, while adults usually only need 7-8. Teenagers seem to believe they need more. As we get older, we tend to need less sleep.
What would cause me to be a light sleeper, waking up often?
Things that can cause light sleep, including:
The best treatment depends on the cause. If the cause is medications, the best treatment is to talk to your doctor about changing medications. If the cause is anxiety or depression, treatment may include counseling and medication. If the cause is pain, the best treatment is to talk to your doctor about pain management. If the cause is noise, the best treatment is to create a quiet and comfortable sleep environment as much as possible.
What can I do if my partner snores and it’s keeping me awake?
If your partner snores and it’s keeping you awake, there are a few things you can do to try to improve the situation, including:
- using a noise machine to help block out the noise
- sleeping in a different room
- talking to your partner about their snoring and asking them to see a doctor
Why do I wake up so hot that I’m sweating?
- certain medications
- thyroid problems
You guessed it, the best treatment depends on the cause. If the cause is menopause, treatment may include hormone therapy. If the cause is certain medications, talk to your doctor about changing medications. If the cause is thyroid problems, treatment may include medication. If the cause is obesity, treatment may include diet and exercise.
There are many natural remedies for sleeplessness and insomnia you can try. Chamomile tea, meditation, aromatherapy, valerian, lavender, lemon balm, magnesium, and tryptophan can all help you sleep. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, there are medication and natural remedy options that can help. Speak to your doctor about it.