Having difficulties sleeping could mean many things. This involves both not getting enough sleep and getting too much sleep. On average, you should be getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If you find yourself outside of this number on a consistent basis, you may be experiencing insomnia, depression, anxiety, sleep apnea, or something else. If you are having trouble sleeping, below are some signs to look out for and tips to finding a better sleeping pattern.
Understand the Different Types
It’s important to first understand why you might be having trouble sleeping. Insomnia is one of the more common sleep disorders making it hard for you to fall asleep or stay asleep. Many causes of insomnia are related to poor sleep habits, depression, anxiety, specific medications, or lack of exercise. One of the symptoms of depression and anxiety involves having trouble sleeping or getting too much sleep. Sleep apnea is a more serious sleeping condition in which your breathing stops and starts rapidly. There are many other sleeping disorders to be aware of as well. Make sure you understand what might be causing your sleeping troubles because that is the first step in improving. Speak to a doctor if necessary.
Identify Why- Keep a Sleep Diary
One of the first steps to overcoming your sleep problems is to identify the why and track your symptoms. Once you understand the different sleeping disorders above, try to track your symptoms through the use of a sleep diary. This will help you understand if outside help from a sleep doctor or therapist is necessary. In your sleep diary, you should track what times you went to sleep and woke up, how many hours you slept for, if you woke up during the night and why, and any forms of medication taken (including caffeine during the day). You should also track what you did during your time spent awake.
Understand the Circadian Rhythm
Our circadian rhythm is also known as our body’s internal clock. Circadian rhythms are mental, physical, and behavioral changes that follow a 24 hour cycle. They respond often to light and dark. When there is less light, your brain is triggered to release melatonin, and when there is more light, your brain is triggered to tell your body to wake up. If circadian rhythms are thrown off, you may have more difficulties sleeping. These are also linked to a number of sleep disorders as well as depression, so it’s important to understand in order to fix your sleep schedule.
While this may sound obvious, one of the best ways to improve your sleep patterns is through reducing your caffeine, alcohol, and substances in-take. Switch to decaf for a while and see if that makes a difference. It’s also important to create a healthy night time routine that you like. If you need some inspiration, there are tons of Youtube videos on helpful night time routines! This might involve listening to your sleep playlist, keeping the lights dim, or doing a skin care routine. Getting into a routine can also help your body keep a consistent circadian rhythm and help your mind understand that it is time for bed. Lastly, make sure you turn off those screens at least an hour before it’s time to sleep!
When to See a Doctor
You should see a sleep doctor if your self-help remedies have failed. It’s especially important to see a doctor if your sleep troubles have put you or someone else in danger. For example, if you wake up struggling to breathe or if you begin to fall asleep while at the wheel. If you believe that you’ve had troubles sleeping due to anxiety or depression, it might also be helpful to see a therapist. Chriselda Santos is a licensed counselor who can help talk you through your options. Learn more here.