Sleep Problems

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By Amanda McKinney, Senior

It's the night before a really big test. You have studied all afternoon and you feel confident you will do great. You want to get to bed early so you can be fresh tomorrow morning for the test. At 10:30pm you turn your light off and close your eyes. However, you soon realize that you're not sleepy. So you might turn the TV on for awhile and try to doze off, yet nothing happens. Constantly you are looking at the clock to see what time it is. You try everything from counting sheep to playing soft music, yet you can't doze off.

We all experience sleepless nights, however they can become a problem if experienced frequently. Sleeping problems can lead to feelings of ill-being, fatigue, and impaired concentration during the day. A normal, healthy individual needs 5 to 9 hours of sleep a night.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60% of adult Americans experience sleeping problems. People with sleeping problems may experience:

  • Difficulty falling asleep.
  • Frequently waking up in the night.
  • Waking up too early.
  • Feelings of grogginess and lethargy.

You may be wondering what exactly causes sleeping problems. Well, there are a number of reasons, varying with individuals, but here is a list of possible causes:

  • Anxiety (excessive worry or fear)
  • Stress (from school or work, relationships, etc.)
  • Physical disorders (such as painful conditions, bladder problems)
  • Environmental factors (noise or room temperature)
  • Lifestyle factors (staying out late at night, irregular sleep patterns, diet)

Here are a few guidelines for getting a good night's sleep:

  • Exercise regularly-particularly in the afternoon.
  • Develop a regular sleep pattern. Go to bed and wake up at regular times everyday.
  • Don't try to make yourself fall asleep. If you can't sleep get up and watch TV or listen to relaxing music until you feel sleepy.
  • Avoid large meals before going to sleep and don't go to bed hungry.
  • Don't consume alcohol heavily before bedtime.
  • Take time to relax during your last few hours of the day. Avoid stressful situations or strenuous mental activity.
  • Reduce caffeine and nicotine consumption.
  • Avoid non-sleep activities in bed, such as your schoolwork, to develop a strong association between the bed and sleep.
  • Do not take naps during the day.
  • Vary the firmness of your mattress.
  • If noise is the problem try using ear plugs or wind machines to drown out the noise.
  • Keep your room temperature between 60 and 70 degrees.
  • If pain is causing you to lose sleep, analgesics are better than sleeping pills.
  • If emotional problems such as depression and anxiety disorders are causing you insomnia, consult a therapist. Getting emotional support will help you sleep better.

Sleeping problems are very common, and we all experience them. However, we do not have to let them control our lives. By following these helpful tips, hopefully you will be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep once more. Of course, if problems continue the friendly staff at the Creighton University Counseling & Psychological Services Office will be more than happy to help you. Also, check out some helpful websites below.

References: The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (3rd Ed.) by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D.

Internet Resources

http://www.studenthealth.co.uk/leaflets/SleepingProblems.htm