Call 936.539.4004 | Hablamos Español

2 min read

Insomnia: Sometimes Counting Sheep Doesn’t Cut It

Gideon Oyekanmi, M.D.

Have you ever spent hours tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep? Or, do you often wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep? If so, you're not alone because about 30% of Americans suffer from insomnia. Lack of sleep can lead to many problems like difficulty concentrating, mood swings, decreased productivity, and susceptibility to developing other illnesses. Insomnia has been found to be associated with multiple diseases including high blood pressure, asthma, COPD, sleep apnea, and depression.

The causes of insomnia are as varied as the people it affects. It can be triggered by stress, irregular sleep schedules, unhealthy lifestyle habits such as consuming caffeine or alcohol before bed, excessive screen time, and certain medical conditions or medications. But here's the good news: insomnia isn't unbeatable.

Most doctors’ first technique for treating insomnia will include lifestyle changes referred to as “Sleep Hygiene”. Just like having good bodily hygiene contributes to good physical health, having good sleep hygiene helps ensure that you have consistent and restful sleep.

Here are Some Strategies You Can Try at Home:

1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This helps regulate your body's internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up.

2. Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment: Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Consider using earplugs, an eye mask, or a white noise machine if needed.

3. Watch Your Diet: Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals close to bedtime.

4. Get Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and improve your sleep quality.

5. Use your Bed Only for Sleep and Intercourse: avoid doing other tasks in bed such as watching TV or using computers. If you must do a task, try and keep it to low-intensity activities like reading books.

6. Get Up and Try Again: If you find yourself lying in bed for a while at night, get up and do something else for a bit, read a book, drink some tea, balance your checkbook, anything that makes you tired!

If these techniques don’t work, visit your healthcare provider. They may offer you a referral to a psychologist who performs cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a therapy that is focused on changing perceptions and patterns of thought that contribute to insomnia.

CBT is a first-line treatment because research has shown that it increases sleep duration and quality. If you find yourself struggling to sleep even with lifestyle changes and therapy, medication is available. However, most physicians will only prescribe it for a short period of time (less than 3 months) due to concerns about side effects and habit formation.

Remember, it's normal to have occasional sleepless nights. But if you regularly have trouble sleeping, speak with a healthcare professional. They can help identify the cause of your insomnia and provide effective treatment options. After all, a good night's sleep isn't just a luxury—it's a necessity for good health and well-being.

Dr. Oyekanmi is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.