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For Immediate Release

Brain Health Corner: Insomnia

November 9, 2021

Good morning everyone, its morning for me as I write this, and as we move further into the dark of the fall and winter I thought I would share a little about sleep, specifically what do we do when we can’t get it.

First, off why and how much? Humans are all different from one another, so how much you need is different from me. That said, we know from the research we need on average about 8 hours of sleep a night. Some of us more, some of us less. How do you know how much you need? Go to bed when you start to feel tired at the end of the day, and don’t set an alarm and see when you get up (and when you wake up, get up, not lay in bed for as long as possible like some of us do…). Do that several days in a row and you start to get a sense of what your natural rhythm is for sleep. For most of us that’s 8 hours.

Try to ignore the people who tell you sleep is a waste of their time and they don’t need much. They’re either lying, trying to look cool and powerful, or are 1 of the actually less than 1% of the population who needs less sleep. Chances are you are not one of those people. We need sleep, it’s when our brain literally cleans itself, washing itself in fluid. It’s when we form our memories (an all nightery is actually bad for learning, your brain needs to sleep to learn stuff). If we didn’t need sleep as a species, we would have stopped doing it a LONG time ago.

So, you need sleep, you need probably near 8 hours. But what do you do when you just can’t sleep? Some general sleep hygiene rules:

1. Beds are for two things, one of them is sleep, none of them is eating, reading, or watching tv. If we do other things in bed, we trick ourselves into thinking “Oh hey, its TV time” instead of “Oh hey, it’s time to sleep.”

2. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and as quiet as possible.

3. Routines. We all work best on routine, so go to bed the same time, every night, even if you don’t work the next day, and get up at the same time, every day, even if you don’t work that day.

4. Also, pay attention to does eating later or caffeine later in the day effect you? If it does limit it.

5. Get enough physical activity during the day.

What to do if you can’t fall asleep? Some general advice:

1. Don’t lay there trying for hours, it tends to lead to us expecting that we are going to not sleep every night, give it about 30 or 45 minutes.

2. Get up, do something boring for up to 20 minutes and try again. Turn on a dim light and read something that puts you to sleep, or meditate, or journal. DON’T eat or turn on a device.

3. Then hop back in bed and try again, repeat if necessary.

4. Don’t beat yourself up, it happens to everyone that we have nights we can’t sleep (I couldn’t sleep on Sunday night and it’s my job to help people take care of themselves y’all!).

If you are having chronic insomnia, or trouble sleeping more than a few nights a week, for a few months then it’s time to get some help. Our best researched treatment for insomnia is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (or CBT-I). When you are searching for a therapist, ask if they have been trained in CBT-I. The best resource for this is http://www.psychologytoday.comThere is help available, we need more trained professionals, but help is available. If Easterseals’ Brain Health team can be of help to you or your loved one, please contact us at 515-289-1933 or head to Easterseals Iowa | Brain Health

Thank you, and good night,

Tony J. Raymer, LISW, RPT-S

Director, Brain Health

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