Sleep Problems Can Cause More Than Just Sleepiness
A lack of quality sleep can contribute to errors, accidents, affect your relationships, your overall health, and your mental alertness; and it make you feel generally “disconnected” from the world. If your sleeplessness is caused by something situational like an upcoming deadline or a common cold, you might not have much trouble getting your sleep back on track. If you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis, this guide to managing common sleep problems and disorders can help you be well on your way to experiencing healthy, restorative sleep.
How do you tell if your sleepless night is an isolated occurrence or if it is related to a chronic sleep problem or disorder? Start by identifying your symptoms. Daytime behaviors may be signs of sleep deprivation. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms on a regular basis, your sleeplessness might be part of an ongoing problem or sleep disorder.
- feel irritable or sleepy during the day?
- have difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching television or reading?
- fall asleep or feel very tired while driving?
- have difficulty concentrating?
- often get told by others that you look tired?
- react slowly?
- more emotional than usual?
- feel like taking a nap almost every day?
- require caffeinated beverages to keep yourself going?
If so, pay special attention to your sleep habits and daily routine. Keeping a record of your sleep patterns will help you and your doctor find the cause of your sleep problems. Download a sleep diary now (pdf).
Using a sleep diary compiled by you and your sleep partner, can highlight lifestyle factors that contribute to sleep difficulties, and help your care provider in understanding how to improve your overall sleep quality. A sleep diary is a record of all your sleep-related information. Assistance with sleep diaries can be obtained by contacting the UI Employee Assistance Program at 319-335-2085 or email us at EAPhelp@uiowa.edu.
Healthy Sleep Tips
For the most part, sleeping involves a routine. So it makes sense that there are things you can do in your daily and nightly routines to improve your sleep quality. Along with consulting your health care provider, you might want to incorporate some of the following tips.
Make Adjustments to Maximize Sleep
- Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco products during the day, especially in the hours before sleep.
- Finish eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, avoiding big meals.
- Exercise regularly. Finish your exercise a few hours before bedtime.
- Eliminate napping or limit the duration to 20 to 30 minutes.
- Avoid fatty and spicy foods at the evening meal. They can cause heartburn which can keep you awake, or wake you up too soon.
Create the Best Possible Sleep Environment
- Remove electronics like computers and televisions from your room.
- Keep the room cool, comfortable, quiet, and dark.
- Use a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Use the bed only for sleep and intimacy.
Prepare for Sleep
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine: take a bath, read a book, listen to relaxing music before bed or try having a cup of Chamomile tea.
- Try using progressive relaxation CD that is specifically for helping people fall asleep.
- Don't watch the clock—it can cause anxiety about sleep.
- Get out of bed if you can't fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes. Only spend time in bed when you are actually sleeping.
- Clear your mind-if you experience worries that are hard to shut off, spend some time earlier in the evening writing in a journal.
Resources available through the Faculty Staff Services/Employee Assistance Program:
- Sleep CDs
- Weekly Sleep Diary (pdf)
- Better Sleep Checklist (pdf)
- Healthy Mind Resources-How Our Thoughts Influence Sleep
- Sleep and Food (pdf)
- Resilience and Relaxation Techniques
- Personal, Couple and Family Counseling
To discuss a sleep concern or to access any of the above resources, please contact Faculty and Staff Services/EAP at 319-335-2085 or email us at EAPhelp@uiowa.edu.
If you would like to post or use as a handout, you may download a printable pdf of this page.
Page Last Updated January 2013