Check Up : Why can't she sleep at nights?

October 18, 2017

Dear Reader,

Stephanie is a single mother of one who writes Check Up from her one-bedroom apartment home in Kingston.

She attends university as a part-time student, works with a wholesale merchandiser helping with accounts as well as supporting and caring for her five-year-old daughter.

Recently, Stephanie has experienced problems with falling asleep at night. Sometimes she does sleep but then she wakes up at between 2 and 3 a.m. and just lies there until she gets another hour or so sleep between the hours of 4 and 5:30 a.m.

She is sleepy during the days and is irritable with her daughter at times and is worried that she is just not coping with things.

She asks Check Up how to get a good night's rest.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder which is characterised by difficulty with falling asleep, and/or staying asleep which results in 'tired feelings' on waking.

Most adults will need six to eight hours continuous sleep regularly to function normally when awake, and insomnia is a symptom and not a stand-alone disorder.

Insomnia can be acute or chronic and some causes of insomnia include:

Acute insomnia:

• Significant life stress such as job loss, death of a loved one, divorce or other significant change.

• Emotional or physical discomfort

Chronic insomnia:

• Depression

• Chronic pain

Treatment of insomnia will involve dealing with, in some way, or resolving the underlying cause or health problem. Sleeping pills can be prescribed by a physician for short-term relief while the underlying reasons are sorted out.

Practising relaxation exercises can help while some lifestyle changes can also make a difference. Sometimes referral to a sleep centre is needed for more help.

• Make it a habit to go in to sleep at the same time and get up the same time.

• No in-between naps

• Avoid using the computer, TV or long use of the phone near bedtime as the light emitted can make it harder to sleep

• Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at night-time. Alcohol use results in poor-quality sleep.

• Don't eat a heavy meal too late at night to avoid physical discomfort and heartburn

• Keep bedroom dark and quiet and wear earplugs if the surroundings are noisy

• Follow a routine before going to bed which the body learns as associated with 'sleep', such as reading a book or taking a warm bath

• If sleep isn't happening then get up and quietly read a book or listen to quiet music until you feel drowsy, and remember, no naps during the coming waking hours. This may be a struggle but will help with falling asleep the next sleep time!

• Get regular exercise not too close to bedtime

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