Sleep disorders are very common and affect up to 70 million Americans every year.
Insomnia symptoms occur in 30-50% of the adult population, and 10-15% suffer from a true chronic insomnia disorder that is associated with distress and decreased function in everyday life.
According to the American Sleep Association, “Insomnia is a common sleep disorder and is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. It can affect someone for a few weeks, or can be chronic and last for months or years.”
Also see our related article: 6 ways to Practice Sleep Hygiene
What causes insomnia?
Insomnia has many causes including:
- Chronic medical conditions such as COPD, asthma, or high blood pressure
- Mental health conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression
- Poor sleep environment
- Medications, alcohol, and caffeine
Talking to your doctor may help determine if there is an underlying medical condition, medication, or mental health issue that could be causing your insomnia.
What you can do to fix these sleepless nights
There are many evidenced-based suggestions to improve sleep issues, outlined in another Amaze blog post, 6 ways to Practice Sleep Hygiene.
Please keep in mind that it takes a minimum of 3 months to change your sleep patterns. Be gentle and kind with yourself during this process.
Two of the most important pieces of advice to follow are:
Go to bed within the same 3-hour time frame window each night.
Your brain will start to produce melatonin, the chemical that signals sleep, around the same time every night. Straying out of this 3-hour window can contribute to poor sleep.
If you are trying to change this 3-hour window, it is helpful to make the change in stages. Begin by starting with a maximum of a 2 hour difference at a time. For example, if you regularly go to bed around 1 am, start by going to bed no earlier than 11 pm.
Reserve your bed for sleep and other “bedroom activities”
Studies show that you should avoid using your phone, watching TV, or even reading a book while in bed.
When this rule is strictly followed, your brain will start rewiring itself to relate bed with sleep, and you will find yourself falling asleep more easily and staying asleep for longer periods of time.
Sleep Tracking can help you understand the behaviors that affect your sleep
By tracking your sleep, you will gain understanding of the quality of your sleep and the contributing factors.
Sleep tracking takes several factors into account and allows you to examine the behaviors that are affecting your sleep.
A common goal is to spend 90% of your time in bed asleep.
- 10:00 pm – Went to bed and attempted to fall asleep
- 10:30 pm – Estimated time you fell asleep
- 3:30 – 4:30 am – Woke up and took an hour to fall back asleep
- 6:30 am – Woke up and got out of bed
10 pm – 6:30 am is the total amount of time spent in bed (8.5 hours or 510 minutes).
Of that, 1.5 hours, or 90 minutes, was spent trying to fall asleep.
So, out of 510 minutes in bed, 420 of those minutes were spent asleep (510 – 90 = 420).
420/510 = .82 or 82%. This night was close to the 90% goal.
Along with tracking the hours spent in bed, sleep tracking considers the behaviors that affect the quality of your sleep.
Each day, ask yourself:
- What did I do today?
- What stressful things happened?
- Did I exercise?
- Did I practice any self-care activities?
- What emotions did I have?
- What did I do before I went to bed?
- Why did I wake up in the middle of the night?
- What did I do while trying to fall back asleep?
By answering these questions every day, you can discover what is contributing to your less-than-perfect night of sleep and you can start addressing behaviors that are affecting your quality of sleep in a negative way.
By connecting the dots and realizing your own patterns, you are applying the foundations of Cognitive Behavior Therapy on yourself and can begin to truly understand and address what may be causing your sleepless nights.
For more information, please read 6 Ways to Start Practicing Sleep Hygiene, by Alexis Bates, LSW, who is part of the Amaze mental health team.
To talk with our medical or mental health teams at Amaze about your sleep problems, please reach out through your Amaze account.