Do you have trouble sleeping?  You are not alone.  An estimated 50 to 70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder, and can cause a variety of problems throughout the day. Sleeping problems affect individuals for a variety of reasons. Learn how you can stop counting sheep and have a better night’s rest below.

First, always check with your doctor.  Your doctor should be able to rule out any physical reason for your sleep troubles, such as muscle tension or sleep apnea.

Second, take a look at how you’re doing emotionally.  Symptoms of depression and anxiety often include having trouble falling asleep or waking up early. 

Once you’ve ruled out medical causes for your sleep issues, here are some helpful hints as recommended by psychologists who specialize in helping patients restore healthy sleep patterns:

  • Turn off all screens (TV, phone, computer, IPod, etc.), or put screens on night mode about 3 hours before you are due to sleep. Light from screens can miscue the brain to thinking it’s daytime and alter circadian rhythms.
  • Turn off all lights in your room and block light from windows as much as possible.  This makes conditions ideal for your brain to make melatonin, a chemical that makes you feel sleepy.
  • If you are uncomfortable sleeping in very dark conditions, walk around your room and/or your house. This helps assure you that your home is safe, which should calm any security concerns you may have.
  • If you lay in bed for more than 20 minutes without sleeping, psychologists recommend you get out of bed and do something in another room that doesn’t overstimulate you.  For example, read a book vice watching TV, or write in a journal. Avoid activities such as playing a video game.
  • Help your brain get used to thinking about your bed as a place only for sleeping and intimacy.  Don’t use your bed as a place to fold laundry, do work, or pack your luggage before you go on a trip.

If you are having trouble sleeping, counselors at the Community Counseling Center can help you explore all your options for changing up your routines, and can provide doctor referrals if necessary.