Dr. Rashida Mengi of Highland Family Medicine discussed the steps you can take to treat insomnia Thursday during News 8 at Sunrise.
“I think we’ve all had a few bad nights of sleep, but people with insomnia tend to have night after night, or at least three nights per week of bad sleep symptoms,” said Dr. Mengi. “These sleep symptoms can be anything from difficulty falling asleep, sometimes they might have repeated night time awakenings where they’re unable to fall back asleep. So insomnia actually effects both the quantity and quality of sleep and eventually can impair your daytime functioning.”
Dr. Mengi said insomnia is a familiar ailment for patients. “Insomnia is one of the most common problems encountered by family doctors. It accounts for about 5.5 million visits to the doctor’s office each year and effects about 10 to 30 percent of the population during that same time period.”
Insomnia can cause a range of problems. “You can imagine, if you’re not sleeping at night you’re going to have some daytime sleepiness, you’re going to have some fatigue,” Dr. Mengi said. “It can cause problems with concentration, attention, difficulty remembering things, and can cause confusion also, and poor work performance as a result of that. And, unfortunately, some people have fallen asleep driving, so it’s been associated with car accidents and in older persons an increased risk of falls.”
Dr. Mengi said there are two main ways that we approach insomnia. “We basically use sleep habits, good sleep habits, and something called stimulus control. So good sleep habits involve try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day. You also want to have a good exercise routine. Now, you don’t want to try to exercise right before bed. Give yourself about three to four hours. You want to avoid alcohol, which also effects the sleep/wake cycle. You want to avoid things like caffeine and smoking in the evening hours, and you want to avoid daytime naps too. Your stimulus control is about providing a good environment for you to sleep in, so you’d want to use your bed for sleep only, no TV or texting or cell phone usage, no internet which can sometimes be hard for people. If you avoid those things you’re going to minimize the bright lights from those screens. You also want to minimize noise, so some people find earplugs helpful, and you want to avoid extreme variations in temperature at night also. And, lastly, just don’t force it. If you lay down to go to bed and 20 minutes later you’re still counting stars or sheep, get out of bed and do something, some light activity and try to go back to bed when you think you can sleep.”
In Dr. Mengi’s next visit, scheduled for November, we’ll discuss what to do when good sleep hygiene and stimulus control do not work to address your insomnia. For more information, click here and search “Insomnia.”