How can I fall asleep more easily?
Larissa Orloff, MD, is a resident physician in Psychiatry at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.
Question: I never had sleep problems until recently. Since starting a new job a few months ago it takes me almost an hour and sometimes longer to fall asleep. I am really frustrated. What should I do?
Answer: It is common that at one point or another in our lives we may experience some problems with sleep. Some changes in our sleep patterns are normal as we age, however adults are recommended to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep per night. Often stress, caffeine, alcohol or a change in your sleep schedule is the cause of sleep problems.
Refrain from drinking excessive caffeine and limit coffee, sodas, tea, or energy drinks to the early part of the day. Avoid heavy exercise in the evenings, try not to read or watch TV in bed, maintain a comfortable room temperature and limit any lights or noises that may disturb sleep. If you are unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do a light activity such as reading in another room. When you begin to feel drowsy, try to fall asleep again.
Is it possible your new job is causing stress? Have you been working longer hours or thinking about work often at night? Sometimes we normalize events in our lives such as moving, getting a new job or getting married, not realizing that these big life changes can cause stress.
When sleep problems persist it is possible there may be an underlying problem. Insomnia is diagnosed when someone has difficulty falling or staying asleep or a poor sleep quality despite enough time available for a full night of sleep. In a year 5-10 percent of the general population may experience insomnia. It could be due to a side effect of medication, a medical illness, depression or anxiety, or one of several sleep disorders such as restless leg disorder or obstructive sleep apnea. If your problems with sleep persist talk to your doctor as there may be underlying medical or sleep disorder that may need to be addressed.
Reviewed July 2010