Don't lose sleep over time change
Medical professionals urge anyone suffering chronic insomnia to see a doctor
CHAMPAIGN — If Charlie Brown had insomnia, this would be the weekend he'd probably be saying something like, "We've got another time change to worry about."
The annual switch to daylight saving time is coming up Sunday, the "spring ahead" time change that steals an hour of sleep time. But that's nothing compared to the shuteye some folks lose on a regular basis.
Insomnia lasting longer than a month is a chronic problem for about one in 10 adults, and some 30 percent to 40 percent of adults complain of not being able to sleep at least sometimes in a given year, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Sleep experts say we should drift off to sleep within 20 minutes or so after our heads hit the pillow.
Why that doesn't always happen can be as simple as something wrong with our sleep environment or eating and drinking the wrong things before bedtime.
But there are also a host of other factors, some we probably never even think about, that can lead to all this tossing and turning.
For starters, certain medical conditions and medications can play a role, said Dr. Ismail Bobat, a pulmonologist and sleep medicine doctor at Presence United Samaritans Medical Center. Alcohol, smoking and caffeine can also disrupt sleep, as can depression and the stresses of everyday life, he said.
Even gender and socioeconomic status can have something to do with who is sleepless, according to Bobat. People with a lower socioeconomic status may have more stresses and less resources to deal with them.
Women tend to have more sleep issues than men, and that has been linked to hormonal changes and some of the medical conditions more common in women than men, such as depression and fibromyalgia.
Insomnia has also been connected to the winter blues condition called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, said Keith White, a Carle psychologist who sees patients with sleep issues.
Older adults tend to complain more about waking up at night, and that can be brought on by the shift in their circadian rhythm, or internal body clocks, causing them to become sleepy earlier in the evening and then to wake up earlier. White said older adults can fall into a pattern of earlier napping that tends to get in the way of a good night's sleep later.
Sometimes insomnia can turn into a vicious cycle: People can't sleep. That chronic insomnia can then lead to major depression and problems with alcohol, which leads to more sleep problems, White said.
"Sleep is a complex thing, and we all want more of it," he said.
When people don't get the restorative sleep they need, the consequences can manifest in daytime problems, such as poor concentration, sleepiness, mistakes on the job, and feelings of irritability, lethargy and feeling down and achy, White said.
"Sometimes, people even worry about sleep during the day," he said.
Two things you shouldn't try to fix the problem: alcohol and over-the-counter sleep aids, White and Bobat both advise.
Bobat said over-the-counter sleep medicines "work short term," but they tend to lose effectiveness and come with a lot of side effects.
Alcohol can produce a drowsy effect initially, he said, but it disrupts sleep later.
For ongoing sleep issues causing daytime problems, experts advise seeing a doctor.
Sometimes, insomnia is a symptom of something else. Some medical conditions that have been linked with insomnia are sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), asthma and allergies.
Medications that can be a culprit include SSRI antidepressants, corticosteroids, birth control, statins, some pain medications, antihistamines, and some drugs taken for thryoid, heart and high blood pressure conditions.
For many people, getting better rest is a matter of practicing good sleep hygiene, White and Bobat say.
That means having a regular routine for bedtime, and winding down beforehand, Bobat said.
Use your bed for sleep and sex only, he advises. Your mind shouldn't be associating your bed with other activities, such as watching TV.
Some change to your sleeping environment might also be needed.
"Make sure the room is dark and quiet, so your mind says, 'I need to go to sleep,'" Bobat said. "Darkness and quiet is important."
White suggests waiting for a feeling of tiredness before going to bed, but still striving to get to bed and wake up at about the same time every day.
"The brain/body seeks regularity, and unless we alter it in some way, it's going to try and get into a pattern," he said.
White said people having trouble sleeping may want to consider trying meditation before bedtime and making some changes during their daytime routines to become more physically and socially active.
"I believe those folks who socialize, who have a sense of purpose, will do better in all areas, including the area of sleep," he said.
Tossing and turning?
If sleep eludes you within 20 minutes of going to bed, local experts advise, don't remain in bed. Get up and do something for awhile, but don't make it something too stimulating.
This isn't the time to balance your budget, said Dr. Ismail Bobat, a pulmonologist and sleep medicine doctor at Presence United Samaritans Medical Center.
Carle psychologist Keith White advises getting up and reading under a low light, or perhaps doing a bit of stretching.
"What we don't want people to do is lie in bed awake and get frustrated and not sleep, and get up and turn on the computer," he said.
Zzzzzzs we need by age
Newborns, 0-2 months: 12-18 hours
Infants, 3-11 months: 13-15 hours
Toddlers, 1-3 years: 12-14 hours
Preschoolers, 3-5 years: 11-13 hours
Kids, 5-10 years: 10-11 hours
Teens, 10-17 years: 8.5-9.25 hours
Adults: 7-9 hours
Source: National Sleep Foundation