Thursday, November 14, 2013

Insomnia and Sleep Hygiene: 5 Steps to a Better Night's Sleep



by: Dr. Melissa Calhoun, C.Psych.


Are you tired of having a poor night's sleep? You’re not alone. People experience insomnia when they have persistent difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night. We all have sleepless nights from time to time, especially when we're under stress.

Chronic insomnia affects many people (about 10%) and often leads to daytime fatigue, decreased energy, problems with attention and memory, and irritability that can interfere with your home, work and social life. Chronic insomnia can also be a risk factor for depression, anxiety and substance use disorders. 

Psychological treatment for insomnia will involve helping you change the behaviours, thoughts and emotions that can get in the way of you having a good night's sleep. 

One of the main ways to improve your sleep is to practice good sleep hygiene on a regular basis. Here are five tips for getting a good night's sleep:

  1. Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule - go to sleep and get up at about the same time every day, including weekends. The time you wake up resets your biological clock for the day.
  2. Avoid taking daytime naps because they can disrupt your nighttime sleep.
  3. Set aside some time every evening as your "problem solving" or "worry time." Use this time to reflect on your day and problem solve. When the "worry time" is up, remind yourself that you can continue to address your problems the next day. Sleep time is not worry time! Bringing your stressors with you to bed gets in the way of becoming relaxed - a necessary part of falling asleep.
  4. Limit the bedroom to sleep and sexual activities - do not read, watch TV or use your electronic devices in bed.
  5. Turn the clock away from you so that you cannot see it. "Clock watching" simply reminds you that you are not sleeping; this awareness can increase your anxiety about the effects of not sleeping (e.g., fatigue the next day) and decrease the likelihood that you will fall back asleep. No peeking! 

Insomnia is a common condition, yet few people seek professional help to manage symptoms. Research has shown that psychological treatment for insomnia is highly effective and has longer lasting positive outcomes than medication treatment alone.

CFIR psychologists can support you to address your insomnia symptoms and to get you back to having 'sleepful' nights! 

For more information about sleep and insomnia, check out the 'Psychology Works’ Fact Sheet: Insomnia.