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Information from Your Family Doctor
Chronic Insomnia: What You Can Do to Sleep Better
Am Fam Physician. 2015 Dec 15;92(12):online.
See related article on chronic insomnia
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is when you have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, even if you have the chance to get good sleep. Waking up early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep is also common with insomnia. You may not function well the next day because of a lack of sleep. Insomnia can affect your energy, mood, health, work performance, and quality of life.
What are common symptoms?
Trouble falling or staying asleep is usually the main problem. You may have several nights of poor sleep followed by a night of better sleep. Other common symptoms include:
Difficulty paying attention
Increased errors or accidents
Ongoing worries about sleep
Reduced motivation or energy
Stomach problems, mainly from worrying
Can insomnia be serious?
Yes. Your body needs enough rest to work properly. It is important that you talk to your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping.
What can I do to sleep better?
Improving your sleep habits is a good start. Your doctor can treat any medical or psychiatric conditions that might be making your insomnia worse. Your doctor can also recommend therapy to help you learn ways to sleep better, like how to relax and not worry about sleep. Medicine might help, but you shouldn't use sleeping pills long term. Your doctor can help decide what treatment is right for you.
Some people need more sleep than others. Sleep usually occurs in two- to three-hour cycles, so it is important to get at least three uninterrupted hours of sleep.
The following tips can help you develop better sleep habits:
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
Lie down to sleep only when sleepy
If you can't sleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and go to another room; return to the bedroom when you are tired; repeat as necessary
Use bedroom for sleep and sex only
Don't do things in bed that might keep you awake, like watching television, reading, talking on the phone, or worrying
Avoid caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol for at least four to six hours before bedtime
Avoid strenuous exercise within four hours of bedtime
Avoid daytime napping
Relax before going to bed
Avoid eating large meals or drinking a lot of water or other liquids in the evening
Keep the bedroom a comfortable temperature
Use earplugs if noise is a problem
Expose yourself to daytime light for at least 30 minutes each morning
Where can I get more information?
AAFP's Patient Education Resource
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Library of Medicine
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
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