By Kara Jacobs –
Darker mornings and lighter evenings always seem to put a wrench in our sleeping schedule when spring time rolls around each year. However, could more serious conditions be contributing to your sleepless nights?
It can be hard to tell if you just had a rough night of sleep or if it might be a chronic condition affecting your sleep. “If the patient’s sleepless nights prolong for more than a month or the sleeplessness is significantly affecting daily activity or performance, then it time to see a physician,” says Michael Wang, M.D., with Millennium Physician Group in Naples.
“Being tired is one of the most common symptoms in office visits,” says Dr. Wang. “Knowing what could be causing sleepless nights is the first step in treatment.” According to Dr. Wang there are normally five reasons people suffer from restless nights.
Top Five Reasons for Sleepless Nights
Stress, Stress…and More Stress
Stress is often referred to as the “silent killer” because of what it can do to a person’s body without them realizing it. Recent studies have proven that stress can take a toll on your health.
“Stress causes a person to put out a lot of cortisol, which is the hormone that is released in response to stress,” says Maria del Rio-Giles, M.D., with Millennium Physician Group in Naples. ”This also increases your body’s alertness and triggers the fight or flight response.”
Make sure to take time out of your daily routine to relax and slough off the stress. Studies show that taking personal time to focus on you—even taking time to mediate each day—can greatly improve your health. “A great tip for falling asleep easily is to create an evening routine that promotes a peaceful sleep environment,” says Dr. del Rio-Giles. “Listening to quiet music, reading a good book and not bringing work into the bedroom are great rules to live by when trying to avoid stress before bedtime.”
“Exercising is also a great way to handle stress,” says Dr. Wang. “Even taking 10 to 20 minutes to walk around your neighborhood in the evening helps decrease your stress levels.”
Depression and Anxiety
Feelings of depression or anxiety—whether over a work situation or an argument with a family member—can also affect your sleeping habits. “Depression can cause people to sleep more during the day and leave them not wanting to get out of bed,” says Dr. del Rio-Giles. “This disturbance in sleep habits can keep a patient awake during the middle of the night.”
If you are struggling with insomnia or restless evenings due to depression or anxiety, then it might be time to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. “It’s an opportunity to sit down with your physician and discuss what’s happening in your life,” says Dr. Wang. “We may be able to prescribe medication or discuss other options for treatment.”
Lack of Sleep
Everyone needs a certain amount of hours in order to get a good night’s rest. And getting only three to four hours of sleep a night just isn’t healthy for anyone. If you are someone who struggles with settling down at night, then Dr. del Rio-Giles has some healthy sleep tips for you.
“Keep your room dark and avoid watching TV in bed. TV is more of a distraction when it comes to falling into a deeper sleep,” she says. ”Additionally, taking melatonin over-the-counter can help regulate your sleep.”
Dr. Wang agrees that forming healthy habits is critical when getting a good night’s rest is your main priority. “You should go to bed the same time every night, especially on the weekends,” he says. “It depends on each person but eight hours of sleep is the recommended hours for adults.
And what about your sleepy teenagers who hate getting out of bed most mornings? “Children and teens do need more sleep than the average adult,” says Dr. Wang.
Dr. del Rio-Giles also recommends adjusting your sleep patterns if you think you are not getting enough sleep at night. Getting on the right sleep schedule for your body is so simple that you can start right away. Just make sure to avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoons or in the evenings before bedtime. “It’s harder to fall asleep and stay in a deep sleep at night if you’ve had caffeine too close to going to sleep,” says Dr. Wang.
Dr. del Rio-Giles has a similar recommendation to those fighting for sleep. “It is best to exercise during the day and not within two hours of bed time. And do not have a heavy meal before bedtime because that can cause acid reflux and affect your sleep.”
She also suggests keeping the bedroom as a place of sleep only. “Keep the bedroom for only sleep. So no laptops or computers in the bedroom,” she says.
Sleep Disturbance Due to Sleep Apnea
“Sleep apnea is the lack of oxidization to the brain while sleeping and patients wake up not feeling rested,” says Dr. del Rio-Giles. “This is often associated with respiratory problems, can increase stroke and heart attack risks, and also lead to high blood pressure. Patients are also at risk for falling asleep while driving.”
If sleep apnea is the reason you may not be sleeping at night, then it’s time to consult with a sleep specialist. “Most of the time sleeping issues can be taken care of in the office, but if sleep apnea is a possibility then I would refer the patient to a specialist,” says Dr. Wang.
If you are referred to a sleep specialist, then you will undergo a sleep study in which you will spend the night at a local sleep study facility. “Patients are hooked to a device that checks for oxygen levels and muscular activity. This device will evaluate how often they stop breathing during the night and provide the physician with an accurate portrait of what’s happening with the patient,” says Dr. del Rio-Giles.
Your primary care physician can easily schedule an appointment with a local specialist who can get to the bottom of your sleep apnea issues.
Chronic Medical Problems and Medication
Chronic problems can also interfere with sleeping. Elderly people who suffer from dementia may have a harder time when they try to go to sleep. “Sun downing is the confusion in the evening hours,” says Dr. del Rio-Giles. “It is best to expose them to bright lights, keep them on schedule, and to keep them in familiar surroundings.”
And there may be a simple solution to your sleeplessness–check your medications. “People tend to take their medications at the wrong time,” says Dr. del Rio-Giles. “I tell patients to take their diuretics later in the day, as well as warn them that beta blockers can sometimes cause nightmares and vivid dreams that affect sleep.”
Diagnosis issues with your sleep can be easy for your primary care physician. “It can be as simple as asking questions about a patient’s habits,” says Dr. Wang. “If the patient is sleeping enough, then I would look through medications to determine the source of tiredness.”
No More Sleepless Nights
Avoid another night of ‘tossing and turning’ by scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician today. Tell your physician if you are worried, depressed, taking new medications or just feeling tired throughout the day. Your primary care physician will be able to take the steps necessary to get you back to sleeping peacefully.
Dr. Maria del Rio-Giles Millennium Physician Group 1750 SW Health Parkway, Building 1 Naples, FL 34109 239-249-27800
Dr. Michael Wang Millennium Physician Group 1284 Creekside Street, Suite 107 Naples, FL 34108 239-249-7830