Common Sleep Problems & How to Solve Them

Healthy Living

May 19, 2020

You probably know that you need good sleep, but it may sometimes seem that your body doesn’t agree.

Unfortunately, tossing and turning all night can lead to daytime problems like lack of focus, indecisiveness and poor emotional regulation. Chronic sleep troubles can also contribute to physical illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.

If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, it’s time to take action. Through lifestyle changes and your doctor’s help, you can find the rest that your body and mind crave.

Note: always talk to your doctor for specific medical advice. The following tips are for information only and shouldn’t be used as/to replace actual medical guidance.

Problem: You aren’t sleepy when it’s time to sleep.

Solution: Turn off your screens a few hours before bed.

It’s a common scenario. You drag yourself through the day only to feel perfectly perky once bedtime rolls around. This second wind can cost you considerable rest each night, and the tired-all-day cycle is likely to start fresh the next morning.

And despite your daily fatigue, the night-after-night routine of staring at the ceiling as the clock ticks by can leave you wondering if there’s any use in going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Instead of ditching bedtime, try breaking up with your screens a little earlier each night. Bright electronic devices like phones and computers give off blue light. Its wavelength is similar to that of the natural light that’s prominent at midday

Exposing yourself to blue light around bedtime interferes with melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that contributes to sleepiness. If your body doesn’t start putting out melatonin early enough in the evening, it throws off your circadian rhythm, leaving you wide awake at bedtime.

To avoid this problem, put your devices away a few hours before you plan to turn in. Other tips for cutting your evening exposure include wearing glasses that filter out blue light and replacing your standard nightlight with a red bulb.

Problem: Your legs keep you up at night.

Solution: Boost your iron intake.

If your legs rebel against you as soon as you lie down, you’re not alone. Around 10% of American adults may be afflicted with restless leg syndrome (RLS).

This condition is characterized by a sensation that your lower limbs are prickling, tingling or throbbing. The natural response is an urge to move your legs. But doing so can make it hard to fall asleep.

RLS could have a variety of causes. One common explanation is iron deficiency. In that case, iron supplements can help. Oral pills may be effective, but some people do better with intravenous supplementation instead.

Before you assume you need iron, talk to your doctor about getting your iron level tested. Never start a supplement regimen without asking a professional. 

Plus, your doctor may want to evaluate you for related conditions. RLS is sometimes associated with kidney failure or diabetic neuropathy.

Many people with RLS benefit from a combination of treatments. In addition to taking iron, you may need to reduce your alcohol intake, perform evening stretches or soak in a warm bathtub before bed each night. Prescription medications normally used for treating seizures, Parkinson’s disease or anxiety may be effective as well.

Problem: You’re wide awake just a few hours after hitting the hay.

Solution: Create and stick to a bedtime routine.

Did you know that insomnia isn’t just the inability to go to sleep? It’s also characterized by nighttime waking. In other words, you go to sleep just fine but wake up shortly after and can’t get back to bed. Nighttime waking can be just as disruptive to a good night’s sleep as not being able to doze off in the first place.

You may notice that the problem flares up whenever you find yourself particularly stressed and anxious. And staying awake for half the night may further add to your stress.

Sleeping should come naturally, right? Well, that’s not always the case. 

Overnight success can take a good deal of work. Developing healthy sleep habits may help you overcome insomnia so you can get the rest your body needs. Translation: you need a reliable bedtime routine, stat.

Start a routine to ease yourself toward bedtime the same time every night. Options abound. 

  • Drink a cup of sleepytime (caffeine-free) tea, play quiet music or perform gentle stretches. 
  • Once you’re ready to head to bed, turn the thermostat below 67 degrees Fahrenheit, and darken the room as much as possible. People sleep best in cool, dark environments.
  • For good measure, put your clock out of sight in case you do wake up in the night. That way, you won’t be tempted to stress about the minutes that are ticking by.

Over time, these bedtime habits can help you sleep better all night long.

Also, while a midday snooze may feel good at the time, it can disrupt your overnight rest. If you’re prone to waking up at night, try skipping your siestas. Forgoing naps for a few days in a row may help reset your sleep cycle. 

Problem: Your nighttime snoring keeps others awake.

Solution: Talk to your doctor about obstructive sleep apnea.

If you rumble like a grizzly bear all night long, your bedfellows may have a hard time getting solid sleep. You may even wake yourself with your grunts and snorts. These little interruptions to your sleep can add up to big exhaustion the next day.

With some people, snoring is no more than a nuisance. For others, it’s a sign of a bigger problem: obstructive sleep apnea

This condition is characterized by interrupted breathing throughout the night. Instead of maintaining calm, steady respiration, you repeatedly stop breathing for several seconds at a time. Sound scary? It is.

Loud snoring is one of sleep apnea’s primary symptoms. Your partner may report that your breath pauses and then resumes with a sudden snort or gasp. You may also be fatigued during the day even after a full night’s sleep.

Your doctor can diagnose apnea after an exam and a sleep study. 

Once you have a diagnosis, you may be outfitted with equipment to help you breathe more normally. One example is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that supplies a steady stream of air throughout the night. Another option is a dental appliance that properly positions your tongue and jaw as you sleep. In some cases, surgery may be a viable approach to apnea treatment.

Good sleep is essential for good health. 

A well-rested brain works better — as does the human body it controls. You don’t have to settle for a fitful night of tossing and turning. If you’re having trouble going to sleep, staying asleep or getting quality rest when you’re sleeping, make an appointment with your doctor to get it sorted out. Good shut-eye isn’t just a luxury. It’s a necessity.