By Mary Ann Durso, RN, Director of Nursing, The Kensington White Plains

There are many causes of insomnia, some will be familiar, others new. The following may answer the burning question, “Why Can’t I Sleep”, and provide some strategies to help you sleep better tonight.

  1. Blue light insomnia- Did you know the blue light from computers, phones, televisions and other electronic devices emit a blue light which suppresses the natural production of Melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone? What is the solution?   Turn off blue light emitting devices at least one hour before going to bed at night.
  2. Menopausal insomnia= hot flashes- Oh yes, we know about those, caused by decreasing estrogen and this can cause sleep disturbance and prevent a good night’s sleep. One solution is moisture-wicking sheets and pajamas and use of a buckwheat pillow as these are cooler than most other materials.
  3. Caffeine Insomnia – We are all aware that coffee or that last espresso can cause wakefulness; but were you aware that iced-tea, hot tea and chocolate all have caffeine which can cause the same problem?  Limiting chocolate, tea and coffee in the evening can help with caffeine induced wakefulness.
  4. Changes in schedules and routines especially after retirement can actually cause insomnia, affecting how the body releases Melatonin later in the day. Keep to your regular schedule.
  5. Did you know that the brain learns associations with bedtime? Reading, puzzles normally calm activities should not be associated with bed, try reading or doing your puzzles in the chair or recliner and save the bed for sleep, this will cause the brain to associate bed with sleep not an activity.
  6. Alcohol can often help us drift off at night, but did you know there is a rebound effect causing a lighter more fragmented sleep? You may very well be tired in the morning. So, eliminate that glass of wine before retiring.
  7. Certain medications can cause issues with sleep as well. Diuretics taken at night will cause a need to toilet at night. Some anti-depressants, Benadryl or cough medicines may have a paradoxical effect instead of causing drowsiness actually causes one to be energized.
  8. Anxiety can cause insomnia as well – thoughts spinning endlessly, worries, concerns; while we may not be able to stop these worries there are cognitive therapies that assist with this type of sleeplessness to help diminish these thoughts and the speeding of the brain.
  9. Dozing off in front of the Television or out of boredom can also cause sleeplessness at night. In the extreme, day and night cycles can become switched and this becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Up-at-night, tired and sleeping during the day, unable-to-sleep-at-night is a problem. The only real cure here is to try not to sleep but to stay awake and skip napping so that at bedtime you will be tired enough to sleep.
  10. Go to bed when you are tired and ready to sleep. Trying to force sleep often backfires teaching the brain that being awake in bed is normal.
  11. Sleep apnea can also cause fragmented sleep. Sufferers of sleep apnea, depending on the severity, may need a C-Pap machine to assist breathing and promote a better night’s sleep.

Lastly, Insomnia is both a symptom and a disease. If altering the above causes of insomnia does not alter your ability to sleep after one month it is time for a medical evaluation.

A good night’s sleep improves our days, providing energy to participate in the activities of the day and improves outlook and mood. Wishing you all a Good Night and a Good Sleep!

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