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When counting sheep doesn't work

Have you ever had one of those nights where you lay wide awake in bed while the minutes tick away and nothing you do brings sleep – not even counting sheep? It's not uncommon for all of us to have a restless night here and there. Recurring insomnia, though, leaves us feeling unrefreshed when we wake and tired, irritated and drained of energy the next day. What's keeping you up and more importantly, what can you do about it?

My brain won't shut off.

In our fast-paced and demanding world, having too much on our mind can contribute to sleepless nights. Stress, worry, anxiety and medical problems are all reasons people lose sleep each night. Any of these coupled with age, gender or a history of depression can increase the chances of ongoing insomnia.

My hormones are changing.

Women are more likely to experience insomnia than men, due in part to the hormonal changes they experience during menses, pregnancy and menopause. These can all trigger sleep disruption.

I sleep in and take naps.

Napping too much during the day or evening, spending too much time in bed, or late nights followed by sleeping in, can throw off your internal clock and affect your sleep. This can lead to sleep that is fragmented and less refreshing.

I share the bed with a noisy or restless partner.

Whether you're sharing the bed with a partner who snores or a disruptive pet, co-mingling can affect your sleep.

Insomnia that only lasts a few days may be treated by some lifestyle changes like:

  • creating a sleep routine that you stick to, even on the weekends
  • having your pet sleep in a crate or another room
  • talking with your partner about  your night's sleep

If it continues most nights for at least a month it's probably time to talk with your doctor. He or she will look at your medical and sleep histories. You may be asked to keep a sleep diary. Long-lasting insomnia may require treatment beyond lifestyle and environment changes. This involves a highly effective and brief therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) that can help you develop the skills needed for better sleep.


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