A good sleep hygiene routine can go a long way in eliminating insomnia, but it doesn’t always cover every source of the problem. Sleepless nights can result from a wide range of issues, so if you’re seemingly doing everything right but still not sleeping, something else could be going on.
When good sleep hygiene alone isn’t enough, consider exploring a few additional avenues. Physical issues sometimes play a role, and pinpointing the problem could be the key to treating the problem for good.
Have the Right Building Blocks
Our bodies use the nutrients we consume as building blocks for different types of tissues, proteins and chemical messengers. For example, we need calcium to build new bone and vitamin D to conduct the process. We also need vitamin D to make melatonin, the hormone that helps us feel sleepy at night. People who are deficient are likely to suffer from insomnia. Some studies suggest deficiencies in vitamins B6 and B9 (folate) may also affect sleep.
Rule Out Underlying Medical Conditions
Health problems can also play a role in a person’s ability to fall and stay asleep. Consider getting a medical checkup to check both for vitamin deficiencies and these physical issues that could also be at play:
- Lung disease can make breathing difficult, especially when lying down, which may disrupt sleep.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, often causes acid reflux. Many sleep positions can worsen this painful condition.
- Restless leg syndrome is a type of discomfort that alleviates momentarily with movement and can be especially persistent when the sufferer is trying to sit or lie still.
- Perimenopause features hormonal changes that can cause hot flashes, heavy perspiration and night sweats. Some women claim to suffer from insomnia for months at a time all throughout perimenopause.
- Certain infections can affect the body and/or brain in ways that affect sleep. Some viral infections, such as HIV, are particularly troublesome. Lyme disease, caused by a bacterium, has triggered severe enough insomnia in sufferers to initiate hallucinations.
- Congestive heart failure can cause labored breathing, which makes falling and staying asleep difficult.
- Sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing becomes stalled or obstructed for short periods throughout the night, and cause snoring, frequent waking and poor sleep quality.
- Allergic rhinitis can impede breathing through the nose, making it hard to fall asleep.
- Some seizure disorders can impact sleep quality.
- Chronic pain can it nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep.
Talk to a doctor about any possible conditions that could be causing problems. In many of the above cases, tackling the core issue could make a meaningful difference.
It’s also important to look at medications/drugs and alcohol use, which can also affect sleep quality. Stimulants and certain antidepressants may be particularly troublesome in this capacity.
Resorting to Sleep Aids
Some people may become desperate enough to nearly anything that will help them sleep. Medications, both over the counter and prescription, can be a short-term solution, but all of them come with side effects, and none are healthy options for the long term. There are a few different options, all of which can lead to dependence and abuse.
Consider using a sleep aid only as a last resort—and always take it exactly as prescribed. Mixing some sleep aids with alcohol or other drugs can be deadly.
Most of us need at least 7 hours of sleep each night, and our health can suffer if we go too long without getting enough of it. If insomnia is making your life miserable, you might need to look beyond the surface for answers. In some cases, the problem won’t let up until you pinpoint and treat the underlying issue.