Sun, 26 Jan 2003

Do you suffer from insomnia?

Insomnia is the term that refers to the difficulty of getting to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. It doesn't only refer to the chronic sleeplessness that keeps one up all night. There are many causes of insomnia, and doctors are learning more and more about insomnia and how to treat it.

The following information is adapted from The Better Sleep Guide, a free brochure provided by the United States-based Better Sleep Council's "Consumer Information Series."

Question: What can I do to sleep better?

Answer: Getting comfortable is one way to help you sleep better. Here are some tips you can try tonight to help you sleep better:

- Make sure that your room isn't too hot or cold.

- If your feet are cold, wear socks.

- If you have an allergy, close your window.

- Make sure your pillows are comfortable.

- Clean under the bed and wash the drapes, blankets, and bedspread to eliminate irritants.

- For some, soothing music at a low volume can help.

Q: Why does alcohol deter from getting a restful night's sleep?

A: For many people, drinking alcohol late in the evening produces fragmented sleep and can cause disturbances several times during the night. Because alcohol in modest amounts is a stimulant in many people, even two or three drinks can distort the body's metabolism. Try to keep nightcaps to one drink, or replace alcohol altogether with a glass of warm milk.

Q: Can a good bed relieve back pain?

A: Yes. An extra concentration of coils in the middle third of the sleep set where your lower back is located can help relieve back pain.

Q: Why can my co-worker get away with only five or six hours of sleep a night when I find myself needing at least eight or nine or I start falling asleep in the afternoon? What's the right amount of sleep?

A: It differs for every person. Some people may need as much as 10 hours a night and others need much less. The average person needs 7-8 hours a night. If you find yourself sleepy during the day, you probably need more sleep at night. Or if you sleep longer on the weekends than during the week, you probably need more sleep during the week.

Q: Lately I find myself waking up more tired than I used to. How can I get a better night's sleep?

A: A few key things should help. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day - even on the weekends. This will help keep your biological clock in sync. Develop a sleep ritual by doing the same things each night just before bed. This cues your body to settle down for the night. Unwind early in the evening so that worries and distractions don't keep you from getting a restful night's sleep. Finally, create a restful sleep environment - sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation - to get your best night's rest.

Q: I'm working a different shift at work now which means I sleep during the day. Is there anything I can do to help myself sleep better?

A: Make sure your room is dark - use heavy window coverings to block out the light. Also make sure your room is cool. Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation that offers you enough space to move around comfortably. And sleep in a room that's quiet. The sleep environment is a very controllable part of restful sleep - whether you're sleeping during the day or at night. You can adjust the temperature, replace an uncomfortable or worn-out mattress, block out noise with earplugs or a white noise machine and keep light from your bedroom with dark blinds or eye shades. Don't let a disruptive sleep environment keep you from sleeping your best!

Q: I read somewhere that the mattress I sleep on can affect how I sleep, is this true?

A: Yes. Your mattress has the potential either to encourage sleep or rob you of sleep. Whether your mattress is a sleep friend or a sleep foe can determine how refreshed you feel in the morning. If you're tossing and turning more at night or if you're waking up feeling stiff or sore after a restful night's sleep, it could be a sign that your mattress is no longer comfortable. Don't let it keep you from sleeping well. Your body appreciates a comfortable, supportive mattress and will let you know if it's not up to the task.